The Joy Is Sucked Out Of MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge

What has become of one of the most entertaining and ancient of reality shows? In no way do I think MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge is remotely near the top 500 greatest television shows, but in terms of mind-numbing and testosterone pumping ability, the Challenge is as near perfect as any show can get. But sadly, it has reached its peak long ago, and it is nearing its end.

The original Real World, in which seven strangers are picked to live in a house together, was the precursor and template for reality television as we know it. It spawned the Road Rules, in which six strangers compete in various missions around the world. The combination of the two shows resembles more like the Road Rules than the Real World, but each one involves money and sex.

It started off as just two six-person teams comprised of two members from three different Real World and three different Road Rules seasons. No one would get kicked off of the show unless that person violated the holy rule of not hitting another person. The rarity of that event made each team stuck with their players. It was fun watching the players interact and bond with each other. No one feared getting kicked off the show, so they concentrated on winning the missions, making it much more team-orientated. No alliances, and no back-stabbing, just the Real World team against the Road Rules team.

Now it is just a free-for-all which I undeniably blame Survivor and its success popularity. What made the original challenges so much fun was the lack of teenage drama. Team loyalty is so rare, even with professional sports, that it was admirable to see the players compete in the name of their respective show. MTV targets the adolescent audience, but to emphasize the arguing and bickering of 20-year olds over money makes me sick. I still watch it because that’s the kind of person that I am.

To go even more ancient than the challenge is go back to a show called Sandblast (1994 – 1996). What a refresher this is. The show featured two teams, each with one man and one woman. The teams competed in a series of physical challenges, much like what the military does in their competitions sans weapons. There was no crap or fluff. They tested pure athletic and mental ability. That show was cool.

The Real World/Road Rules Challenge formula has been copied and altered with shows like Fear Factor and Dog Eat Dog. It’s hard to watch either when the Challenge provided me with so much time-wasting entertainment. I must admit that spin-offs The Gauntlet and the first Battle Of The Sexes were very well done. But this recent Inferno II is nauseating.

The missions are lame; although the dodge-ball mission looked fun, the actual Inferno matches couldn’t be dumber. There was a lot of retained drama from the earlier season of the Battle Of The Sexes where Tonya feuded with both Veronica and Rachel. The feud became very repetitive with almost every episode devoted to Tonya complaining for a few minutes. And as much as I like C.T., I have come to the realization through his interactions with Karamo and Dan that C.T. is just a punk with muscles and athleticism.

The last mission was lackluster. I must give the creative minds credit in making the final mission somewhat large in scale. In The Gauntlet, it was a huge race filled with small sub-missions involving both physicality and mentality in one large foot-race. This one compares to it, but all physicality in the form of a semi-big mini triathlon. The Bad-Asses fail, not because of the number of players that they have on their team but the number of weak players — Tonya and Tina. I never thought Tina was a strong player despite how many times she proclaimed herself as such. But in the span of the five minutes that were actually shown of the players in the mission, it is hard to gauge who really were strong. In fact, the condensed twenty minutes of the show made it seem rushed, and there weren’t any parts of the episode that I remember enjoying. Damn, this show sucks.

Maybe the Challenge itself has lasted too long, and needs time off to refresh (a la Star Trek). Oh, who am I kidding? Whenever the Challenge is on, that’s what I’ll be watching. Call my Mondays at 10PM every week for the next 20 years taken. Tune in for next week’s episode is the wrap-up special called “To Hell And Back: Hot Gossip From The Inferno II.” Who comes with these stupid names?

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