More of a challenge than the actual The Challenge

By | April 27, 2021

I’ve been reaquainting myself with MTV’s The Challenge of late, having not really watched it for about ten years. For the uninitiated, it’s a reality game that’s been running since 1998 as a spin-off of two existing MTV reality (fly-on-the-wall docs they’d have probably been called back then) shows, Road Rules (starting 1995) and Real World (starting 1992, and they’ve only recently stopped making it) and as such actually pre-dates a lot of reality behemoths that we know today (although it is probably fair to suggest that the form we know now probably owes quite a lot to those behemoths).

The specific rules of the game change from season to season, but on a basic level each episode features a Daily Challenge and an Elimination Round and to make any money you have to survive to the season’s Final. Daily Challenges are big scale and usually visually interesting, something testing endurance/dexterity/puzzle solving, if nothing you’ve really not seen before. The head-to-head Elimination Rounds are either involve a variant on wrestling and/or some sort of action game with a puzzle element. In between we get action from the house usually involving politicking for the various votes, nights at a local bar, fighting and fucking. At heart, it’s sort of Survivor Legacy, contestants get re-invited back season after season, some have been going at it for the best part of twenty years with all the rivalry and baggage that that entails (Johnny Bananas recently completed his 20th season and is now 46 and still pot-stirring at every opportunity).

For a channel that’s so obsessed with 18-34s, the age of its participants might prove a problem. However a few years ago they’ve started inviting people from other international reality shows on, including a big UK contingent from things like Geordie Shore, Love Island, Ex On The Beach and so on. Generally speaking these people have provided good value in terms of comic lines in confessionals. I’ve also quite enjoyed host ex-BMXer TJ Lavin’s complete lack of sympathy for quitters and openly laughing when someone belly flops after a bodged height challenge.

“So Brig,” you might be asking, “this sounds like quite fun. How can I watch it myself?” Well reader, I’d like to say you can (legally) watch it for free, but I can’t. I’d like to say it’s all one streaming service, but I can’t. I’d like to say you can (legally) watch from the very beginning, but I can’t. But I CAN give you this handy table of what’s currently available:

31: VendettasNow TV, UK Netflix
32: Final ReckoningNope.
33: War of the WorldsHayU, UK Netflix
34: War of the Worlds 2HayU, or you can buy it on Amazon Video for a tenner.
35: Total MadnessHayU
36: Double AgentsNow TV, MTV Play, or you can buy it on Amazon Video for £30.
37 (?): All-StarsCurrently airing but made for Paramount+ in the US and you can’t watch it here.

It is a little bit ridiculous isn’t it? On the plus side, you can get thirty day trials of HayU and MTV Play as Amazon video channels so you can sort of watch most in one place, just remember to cancel the sub before you get charged. Who even knew MTV Play was A Thing? Anyway, SORT IT OUT distributors.

14 thoughts on “More of a challenge than the actual The Challenge

  1. Alex McMillan

    I wish HayU specifically would get their act together regarding their content library. For claiming to be the home of Reality TV, the fact it has so few competitive reality shows is ridiculous.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      If Paramount+ opened up to the UK, with all the CBS reality games that that includes, I’d be ON it.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      There’s deffo one in WotW2 (who doesn’t seem to have made a comeback since), and deffo a different one in Double Agents.

    2. Brekkie

      That is scraping the barrel some what.

      Unless the All Stars series works for Paramount+ I suspectvit’s days are numbered considering MTV US now shows a clip show Ridiculousness about 166 hours a week. The Challenge is about the only other show they air.

      Although it’s gone the way most MTV shows have in recent years always liked the concept. I used to think it was the sort of thing C4/E4 could have done in the noughties to get more mileage out of their Big Brother stars.

      1. Brig Bother Post author

        I’m quietly impressed for the show’s production values for a show that seems to get around 600,000 viewers – that’d be like something getting 120k on ITV2 over here. They must be hella valuable.

  2. Brig Bother Post author

    I’m genuinely clueless as to why S32 isn’t available anywhere, not only as it has a UK contingent, but it’s the end of a “trilogy” (Alongside Dirty 30 and Vendettas).

    WotW1/2/Total Madness are also a trilogy, for the uninitiated, going for an army/end of the world vibe.

    Double Agents is spy themed, although you could probably guess that.

  3. Andrew, the Yank

    I was a big fan of the challenge when it first aired, having been a big Road Rules fan (and hating Real World, so the fact that the early seasons pitted the two shows against each other gave me a rooting interest), but man is it just everything wrong with US game shows and I can’t abide it anymore. Even within the challenges, they show maybe like a minute of the actual challenge between 10 minutes of interviews, and I find it so frustrating.

  4. Clicky

    “Survivor Legacy” – such an accurate description!!

    I only watch if I’m bored, it’s just feels like the same thing over and over, and as someone who loves underdog stories, I hate the amount of pre-established friendships/alliances and vet vs. n00b mentality enough that it just does not do the trick for me unfortunately.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      I suspect I’m a bit kinder to it because I’ve not watched it for so long and I’m currently mainlining it, but yes.

  5. Greg Lowe

    The final of Double Agents is home to one of my favourite reality TV moments and possibly my favourite since watermelon to the face on TAR and the double idol play in Survivor H v V . Bit as it’s not yet aired in the UK I’ll keep it to myself for now.

  6. Max T

    For the new people, the ones to start with would be Free Agents (you might need to find OTHER means to see it), The Duel which is on Netflix and War of The Worlds. All fantastic seasons in their own right


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