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Arkansan among 12 on Quest to be fantasy hero

By Michael Storey

This article was published July 31, 2014 at 2:09 a.m.

And now for something completely different.

Well, not completely, but there's enough of a creative twist to be intriguing -- and there's an Arkansan to cheer on.

The Quest, a new competitive reality series, debuts at 7 p.m. today on ABC. Gird thee thy loins, quaff a flagon of mead and sally forth.

ABC tells us The Quest is "the pursuit to crown the ultimate hero in a thrilling race against time" as fantasy and reality competition collide with a scripted story line.

It's a good vs. evil fantasy from Mark Ordesky, an executive producer of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Bertram van Munster, executive producer of The Amazing Race. There's a dash of Game of Thrones thrown in for good measure.

In the series, 12 contestants are transported to an imaginative realm "of magic and malevolence" (it was filmed in the magical realm of Austria). In Everealm, "ogres run free in the forest, dragons stir, agents of a dark lord infiltrate the keep, and the only thing standing between peace and chaos are the 12 paladins."

Our would-be heroes will be fully immersed in the experience in and around an actual castle. That includes costumes, arms and assorted accoutrements. Their challenge is to reclaim the Sunsphere, vanquish evil from the land and save Everealm.

For authenticity, the series will employ state-of-the art projections, animatronics, prosthetics and art direction.

There is an extensive narrative and mythology with The Quest that have been designed to incorporate seamlessly with the actions and decisions of the contestants.

The contestants (known as paladins) must rely on physical stamina, intelligence and resourcefulness to emerge as the one true hero. The dozen players represent a variety of ordinary folks ranging from a mixed martial arts fighter from Texas, to a mother and homemaker from Pennsylvania.

Our Arkie connection is Jim Curry, a technology education major from Little Rock who attends the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Advantage: Curry grew up in the woods with his park ranger dad. Geek cred: Curry is also a member of a Hogwarts virtual choir and a member of the University of Arkansas Quidditch team. (Quidditch is the flying broomstick sport played at Hogwarts in Harry Potter.)

At 22, Curry is the youngest paladin and tells ABC that his earliest memory of the fantasy genre was the Harry Potter novels he read in the second grade.

"I'm someone who just loves being a dork, a nerd," Curry said. "I was that kid who would rather read books or play video games."

His motivation?

"I want to show that little kid who was so shy and quiet that he doesn't always have to always be that way. He can step outside his comfort zone and excel.

"It was so easy [as a child] to put my mind into fantastic adventures, and here I am in one. And I can't help but wonder will my wildest dreams become reality? I think that they can."

He's on a hero quest, but how does Curry define a hero?

"To me, a hero is someone who strives to make the world a better place through even the smallest acts of good," he said. Whether you are stopping a meteor from hurtling into a city or holding a door open for a little old lady, it all boils down to the people you are standing up for. Heroes are selfless, often overlooking the fact that they are heroes until called into action."

And Curry's real-life hero is Jeff Whitlow, who teaches fourth grade at Chenal Elementary School. Whitlow introduced Curry "to a ton of fantasy literature, taught me to stand up for myself, and helped me to embrace my extroverted side by challenging me to step outside my comfort zone."

Here's hoping Whitlow's lessons pay off in Everealm.

The Killing. Yes Killing fans, there will be a Season 4 of the series starring Mireille Enos as detective Sarah Linden and Joel Kinnaman as detective Stephen Holder. The catch: It airs exclusively on Netflix starting Friday.

The fourth season takes up immediately where Season 3 left off. A seemingly perfect family was massacred, but a son survived. Let the investigating begin.

Joan Allen guest stars as the headmaster of the all-boys military academy that the boy attends.

Masters of Illusion. It's a magic show with comedy, grand escapes and illusions airing at 7 p.m. Friday on The CW. I never much cared for magic on TV. For me, it doesn't translate. For those who love this stuff, enjoy.

Hell on Wheels. It's Season 4 for the AMC Western starring Anson Mount. The train rolls in at 7 p.m. Saturday.

As the season kicks off, civilization continues to make inroads, but there's conflict over who will control the important rail hub of Cheyenne, Wyo.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

Weekend on 07/31/2014

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