Unnecessary Surgery: MTV’s The Challenge


Screen shot 2015-02-11 at 5.32.31 PMLast night, on MTV’s The Challenge, a couple named Adam and Britney went into The Elimination Dome for the fourth time in what feels like three weeks. They’re newcomers, hailing from an MTV show called Are You The One? and they squared off against relative newcomer Johnny Reilly and verified newcomer Avery, both of whom came off of Real World: Portland.

For those who don’t know, The Challenge is the Darwinian offspring of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge, and it takes former members of the Real World — it’s that one show that absolutely still exists and is awesome in every way that it probably wasn’t awesome before, but also really shitty in every way that it wasn’t shitty before — and pits them against each other in varying formats. They eliminate each other week by week, and they do this by defeating one another in the aforementioned Elimination Dome.

Drawing the unfortunate task of competing in the Dome can be done one of two ways1:

1. You suck at the Challenge of the Week and finish last and disappoint TJ and are sent into the elimination round in an extremely meritocratic way because you suck and have earned it.

2. You suck at the Making Friends With The Right People At The Right Time part of the game and get voted in by whatever team won the Challenge of the Week.

Once those two teams — or individuals or representatives of teams — are procured, the elimination begins.

That brings us back to last night: Both teams are close to winning. They’re mere inches away from the goal at a seemingly simultaneous moment. It’s so close they can taste it. I can taste it. My girlfriend can taste it. My dog can taste it. They can taste my dog, my girlfriend and I tasting it.

Screen shot 2015-02-11 at 5.27.42 PMThe two dudes, Adam and Johnny, have been stacking what appear to be training boxes to create dueling towers of insatiable exercise equipment. The goal is to create a tall enough stack (while standing on the stack) to reach a bell. They’ve got the stacks stacked. They’re prepping to jump. They jump. A title card. “To be continued…” And then MTV and Bunim/Murray roll the damn credits on us.

Comeeeeeeeee onnnnnnnnnnn.

I need to know who won. It’s an issue. Why is it an issue? Because Johnny Reilly is the man and Adam sucks. That’s not an opinion, that’s fact. It’s like Absolute Zero or the atomic structure of water, and if Adam wins and Are You The One? enjoys one more week of relevance, it’ll be an American Tragedy on par with that time when I was a kid and they cancelled the Fourth of July fireworks because it was “too dry” and “devastating forest fires” could be triggered by traditional American Patriotism.

In other words, it’d be a GIGANTIC FUCKING TRAGEDY.

Why, you might be asking? (You are definitely not asking this. I don’t even know who “you” is in this question. I hope “you” is Salman Rushdie, because that means Salman Rushdie watches The Challenge. Moving on.)

It would be a tragedy2 because AYTO sucks. Because the cast of AYTO sucks. Because the show was basically what would happen if Her was set the during the opening sequence of Springbreakers and iPads replaced iPhones3 Because there wasn’t a single actual human being on that show. Because, if you watch 34 seconds of AYTO, you realize that that last sentence wasn’t actually as mean or hyperbolic as it sounded. Because we’re in the middle of a season of The Challenge and they already left a verifiable Murderers Row of entertainment riding the pine. Because seven new Real World-ers become eligible each year and the cast isn’t that big in the first place. Because it’s so damn unnecessary.

The Challenge wasn’t broken. The Real World kind of was — shots at you, St. Thomas — but they figured out a quick fix for a 25-year-old franchise and now it is back with a vengeance. AYTO isn’t any good, though, and MTV bringing on four measly former cast members reeks of desperation. I understand the need for synergy and cross-promotion and all that, but why ruin the landmark program? It would be like if Drake decided to put Cory Gunz on the first eight songs on his next album.

But now The Challenge kind of feels broken. It feels stale. I harbor far more anticipatory feelings toward the Real World than I do toward The Challenge this season. That could just mean that the Real World is kicking ass, or it could mean that The Challenge is waning a little. And I say this just one week after THERE WAS A WOMAN WHO DRANK SOMEBODY ELSE’S SWEAT, AND THAT SWEAT WAS PROCURED FROM A POST-WORKOUT CUTOFF SHIRT WORN BY A PERSON WHO MAY OR MAY NOT BE ABLE TO DEFEAT AN ENTIRE MOUNTAIN RANGE WITH HIS FISTS  AND THIS TASK WAS PERFORMED FOR JUST $70. Excuse me. Sorry about that, back to business. I’ll go with option B, but mostly because I have a fix that would not only suck the sogginess right out of The Challenge, but also give us another 12-16 episodes a year…

Are you ready?

The Challenge: Minor Leagues

What it would be? Exactly like it says, it would be a minor league feeder system to the major league that is The Challenge. Following a Real World season, AYTO season, a Challenge season or an infusion of Fresh Meat, The Challenge: Minor Leagues would begin. It would function as a low-budget version the Challenge, probably with more gross-out challenges on hand, because money. It would mirror, structure-wise, the previous season of the Challenge, because spoilers.

Who would be on it? It would include the most recent Real World cast, because at this point that show only casts people that are made of marble on the outside and angry megaphones on the inside. It would also include some AYTO members looking to make the leap into the primetime world of The Challenge. People also invited would include those who performed poorly in the previous Challenge and people who took a few Challenges off in between their last appearance and their next one. So, for instance, if this were in play this year, Jay, Jenna, John, Simone, Adam and Britney would all be competing in a Free Agents tournament of the same size, and most likely so would Zito, Jessica and other poorly performing past competitors.

Why? Why not? It adds time, builds in a level of streetcred that the so-called rookies lack (mostly in Johnny Bananas eyes, but still) and offers a buffer between a dumb e-dating reality show and the Fifth Major American Sport.

Come on MTV, give me literally one reason why this isn’t happening yesterday.


  • Free Agents was weird, so I’m not about to induct that whole card-flipping business into the rarified Challenge Determinant air. Yet. Jump
  • Yes, a tragedy. Not, like, a real tragedy. An internet tragedy. Like when the Yeezy II Red October’s drop and no one knows so no one gets them. Or when the Playstation Network went down for a while. You know, that kind of tragedy. The internet kind. Jump
  • This is probably an appropriate time to mention that I’ve never seen Her. Also, that sounds kind of cool. Jump

Categories: Just for fun, Reality TV

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