'The Challenge' Is Glorious Trash

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Oh lord. Lock up the booze and Scotchgard the couch, because another season of MTV's vomitously fun workhorse series The Challenge is headed our way. They've just released the trailer for the new season, and it looks like the usual belch of drunken squabbling and a hint of physical danger lurking in the air. Plus, y'know, the challenges and stuff. Which is great! Despite nearly everyone in the show's repertory company being a rum-chugging nightmare person, The Challenge has been solid television for a whopping twenty-three seasons.


Well, OK, the earlier seasons were a very different animal, all gentle and simple and goofy. It was the Real World/Road Rules Challenge at that point, back when both shows were fertile breeding grounds for camera-comfortable young folks. But then Road Rules was canceled, putting them down one feeder show, so the producers started adding some "Fresh Meat" contestants here and there while still relying on The Real World for the bulk of their casting. It's worked, well, beautifully. As the stable of Challenge veterans grows, with some players appearing in as many as ten seasons, relationships warp and corrode, rivalries and feuds thrive, and the show's strange sense of meta tension deepens like flavors in a cast iron skillet.

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The world of The Challenge is a weirdly self-contained ecosystem, the cast members seeming very much aware of their particular and practiced role in the franchise while also stumbling around obliviously. The way the show has begun to reference itself is almost cozy, a reality show that rewards loyal viewing like a good scripted series would. People talk Survivor seasons past while on Survivor. but on that show it's not the same people coming together over and over and over again every year. The Challenge on the other hand is a definite family, a loud and boorish and possibly mentally unstable family, but a family nonetheless.

And what could be more meta and thrill-seeking than what they're doing this season, pairing up cast members who've had beef in the past to be teammates this time around. Some of the feuds I don't remember — did Ty and Leroy have issues with each other? — but others are rife with loony tunes potential. None more so than the pairing of arrogant, thick-headed Wes and feral booze beast CT, perhaps the scariest creation in the mighty Bunim/Murray canon. I'm more than excited to see them grunt and flail at one another, especially now that the grudges are old and deep and their brains have been addled after so much Challenge raging.

And I bet there are a number of you out there who are excited too. I mean, people are watching this show, they wouldn't be making a twenty-fourth season of the damn thing if people didn't watch it. So fess up, it's OK. Step out of the shadows and admit that you too can't wait to see Johnny Bananas lope around like a clown, or Paula bark in someone's face, or Dunbar do something horrifically creepy because that's what Dunbar does. We shouldn't have to watch this show in shame and secret anymore. Come on. Who's with me?


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