The Top 5 Stupidest Physical Challenge Shows Ever

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Since time immemorial, humans have reveled in watching our fellow man engage in bouts of physical challenge. From the ancient Greek Olympics or the Roman gladiatorial contest, to the medieval joust, to the modern bicycle race or football game, we love seeing people struggle and persevere in the face of grueling adversity. In our modern era, we no longer have to go to the coliseum or the football field to watch people undertake epic physical challenges; we don’t even need to watch them undertake traditional challenges such as those of sporting events. In the past quarter century, a new type of television program, the physical challenge show, has gradually worked its way into our “culture.” Whether these wacky shows shall weave themselves into our collective human story as tightly as the ancient games or the knights’ tournament, we can only wonder.

5 What Would You Do?

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This Marc Summers hosted program was the ill-conceived scion of the excellent Nickelodeon classic “Double Dare.” You see, that show pitted teams of youngsters against one another in knowledge-based challenges that could escalate into physical challenges and culminated in an amusing (albeit rather gross) obstacle course. “What Would You Do?” on the other hand consisted of audience members doing things like eating toothpaste or putting bugs down their pants. The high water mark of a given episode was slamming a cream pie into the face of an opposing contestant. It was, in short, an inferior program.


The saving grace of the show “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge” is the fact that everyone is in on the joke, the joke being that both the premise and the execution of such a program is ludicrous. “MXC” is actually cobbled together entirely from the footage of a Japanese program titled “Takeshi’s Castle” with added commentary of a decidedly juvenile nature. The show(s) consisted of people trying to complete a complex obstacle course featuring everything from water cannons to huge foam boxing gloves to greased trampolines. While “MXC” has its moments, those moments are usually seen only by the chronically unemployed, the chronically stoned or those battling a serious case of the flu.

3 Wipeout

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OK, take the entry before this one, the one about “MXC,” and remove most of the irony. Which of course immediately enhances the irony of this program tenfold. “Wipeout” is a game show purportedly featuring “the world’s largest obstacle course” (we ask the producers to check the encyclopedia entry for “Omaha Beach”) and, like the Japanese-cum-American program it is clearly ripping off, this show is one long bonanza of wacky ways to knock people off their feet and into a pool of water. How clearly, you ask? Enough to merit a lawsuit. Individual episodes are supposed to be made more compelling by team rivalries pitting groups such as “hotties” vs. “nerds,” but reality that just stereotypes two groups while further degrading what little pedigree the program had to begin with.

2 American Gladiators

Be honest: you used to watch this show, and now, thinking back, you have no clue as to why. Right? “American Gladiators” featured a crew of pumped-up, rather oily, patriotically-clad men and women with names like Pyro, Ice and Wing Nut (as we recall, anyway) challenging amateur athletes in a series of ridiculous physical challenges. There were the “big foam sticks on top of column” fights, the “tennis ball machine cannon obstacle courses” and of course there was the “questionable sexuality.”

1 Hole in the Wall

From the Parthenon to Hagia Sophia, from the marbles of Bernini to the brushwork of Van Gogh, from the lyrical language of Whitman to the mad prose of Miller, we humans are capable of breathtaking works of beauty and profundity. Or at least we thought that until 2008 when Fox aired a show called “Hole in the Wall.” In this show, a wall with a hole cut into it slowly moves toward a person standing before a pool of water. The hole is cut in a wacky shape. The person has to make themself fit through it or they get pushed in the water. That’s the show.

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