The Modern Gypsies, the San Diego team who won it all in the first season of ABC's "Expedition Impossible," are living proof that reality TV can have an encouraging outcome for the greater good.
After filming wrapped up on Mark Burnett’s new reality TV show, The Gypsies got right back in the saddle (minus the crazy camels) traveling to raise money and awareness about their newest mission as "compassionate adventurers."
In Mark Burnett's latest reality-TV show, 13 teams of three competed across the Sahara Desert in a 10-leg race.
Admittedly, this show noticeably resembled the "Amazing Race," but it was missing something besides U-turns. Expedition also lacked "Survivor's" Machiavellian tactics to spur on the drama, and the show didn't require board rooms or councils to vote off so-called friends.
I recently spoke with the Modern Gypsies, Eric Bach, 26, John Post, 25, and Taylor Filasky, 32, who share ties with San Diego and are free spirits in real life, something they say was key to their success.
The trio was in perfect sync throughout the entire competition -- down to the purple-colored shirts and matching mustaches.
Their first obstacle, however, was to lobby against being labeled The Hipsters by producers (anything but this name, right?). But the rest was smooth sailing for the group who possessed the precise combination of qualities -- and physical and mental strength -- that a true dream team needs to make it to the end of this grueling competition.
The boys in purple trekked across Morocco to finish in first place nine out of the 10 legs in the show's debut season and took the $150,000 prize along with new Ford Explorers. (A few hundred thousand dollars from a "Survivor’s" $1 million prize and far from a glamorous job as an apprentice for Mr. Trump, huh?)
John Post, originally from Pensacola, Fla., said the show was positive not only because of the Gypsies' stalwart personalities, but because most of the teams set the tone for the whole race.
"There were opportunities to send people in the wrong direction and things like that, but we didn't. The vibe was so good and so positive throughout the race, and that's what made it great," Post humbly added.
Eric Bach grew up in San Francisco and noted that in spite of Burnett’s shows usually including a lot of malicious backstabbing, "Once we saw this show had heart, that really attracted us and fit with our personalities."
Ironically, it was Bach’s chance encounter with "Survivor: Samoa" cast member, Kelly Sharbaugh, bartending in San Diego that inspired the guys to audition for "Expedition."
Before the mustached threesome became the Modern Gypsies, Taylor Filasky was a video producer in San Diego, a skill that came in handy when the boys decided to put together their audition tape for Expedition Impossible.
Speaking of mustaches, though Taylor has his own version of facial hair, he revealed to me that he decided to sport a fake mustache when he first met with Burnett, and added that this trick may have helped the team seal the casting deal.
After college, and before "Expedition," the adventurous friends continually traveled the world -- 45 countries between all three of them -- volunteering in impoverished regions and helping people improve their lives.
To capitalize on the national attention after winning Expedition Impossible, these genuine globe trotters immediately set off on their next enterprise called "Compassionate Adventures."
The Gypsies partnered with Free the Children, a global charity organization, and are raising money through T-shirt sales as the newest ambassadors for Jedidiah USA, a San Diego-based humanitarian clothes maker which uses sales to provide support for the needy.
Their first post-show mission is to help people with a specific task in one of three countries: mobil health care in Kenya, clean water for Ecuador, or alternative income in India.
However, they won't be choosing where they go to work next, fans will. Fans can vote at www.themoderngypsies.com/projects to determine where their first compassionate adventure will take place!
I like what these boys are doing.
Unlike the typical made-for-reality-TV-personality, these energetic philanthropists have chosen to live a life unfettered by the normal responsibilities that come with celebrity and the American way of life. They claim their "DNA is encoded with giving back" and are determined to make a difference in the world.
So, did you say it was me who said reality TV is bad?
Probably, but I’d like to see more results like this from reality TV, please.