9 Things I Want to See Changed/Brought Back for Future Seasons of The Challenge

The Challenge is clearly one of my favorite shows on tv considering that I take the time to write about the show weekly. However being a fan doesn’t change the fact that there are several things production has gotten away from on the show that I want to see back to for future seasons.

A lot of this is going to be critical of the current season, Spies, Lies & Allies, so I am going to start off with the two things I think that they have done right this season as opposed to Double Agents & Total Madness.

Bring in Better and (Preferably) Younger Rookies

First off, I am really thrilled with the majority of rookies this season. In both Double Agents and Total Madness the rookies were older than normal and mostly unremarkable. Nothing against people in their 30s & 40s but I think that casting rookies younger on the whole tends lead to a better show. Younger cast members are more likely to be someone the show can invest in since they have the potential to be on Challenge seasons for a longer time. Younger contestants are usually less mature and more likely to get in to drama and be single and looking to hook up on the show. The average rookie age for Total Madness was 28.9 and for Double Agents was 27.9 but is down significantly to 26.6 for Spies, Lies & Allies.

The rookies this season are both as a whole and individually a lot more dynamic with the best ones showing star potential. They have gotten in fights, they have had memorable elimination wins, brought entertainment in the house & confessionals and gotten into showmances. Even though (or perhaps because) they are all getting thrown in week after week the Spies, Lies and Allies rookies are a real part of the show’s story. Where in contrast I feel like you could tell the 2–3 minute story for Double Agents and the only rookie you would mention would be Amber B and for Total Madness you might only mention Kaycee.

Return to Warm Weather Locations

Something else The Challenge went back to this season that I was happy to see was a warm weather shooting location. For years you could expect each season of The Challenge to be in a house in a warm climate like Costa Rica, Mexico, Thailand, Namibia, Spain or Turkey but for two seasons in a row they were in cold climates and it felt like it noticeably effected the show. Total Madness & Double Agents seemed less fun since people were staying in the house more and bundled up as opposed to out by the pool and having fun. In addition there are competition advantages the show has by being in a warm weather climate. They get to have more varied options for what they can do particularly for water challenges in warm weather seasons. Some of these types of challenges were not as available on Total Madness and Double Agents because of the climate.

Consequences for Doing Poorly in the Daily Challenges

The Challenge when it is at its best is dependent both on a competitors physical and mental performance in challenges and their social and strategic game by having friends and/or alliances to stay safe. In past seasons there were consequences for sucking in a daily challenge since often that player or team who finished last in the went straight into the elimination round. While I do not think that should be the case every season it has not been used since Vendettas (6 seasons ago) and having consequences like that can often make the game more interesting. Teams can have all the friends but screw up and end up fighting for their Challenge life and it is less likely for a big alliance to be able to choose every elimination match up exactly how they want like they have done for the most part the past few seasons. If not sending the last place team directly in I would be happy to see a return to something like the draw or the double cross where the worst performing competitors have a chance at random to go one in the elimination.

The Return of a Fan Favorite Season Format

I do absolutely appreciate that the Challenge likes to keep things fresh by changing up the game from season to season. Some seasons being played in pairs, others in teams and others individually but that does not mean that they need to abandon repeating themes all together. The show was built on some classic and successful formats like Battle of the Sexes, The Inferno, The Gauntlet, The Duel, Fresh Meat, Rivals & Battle of the Exes all of which were used at least twice.

However, the show has not used one of these classic themes or repeated one of their new formats like Free Agents or Invasion of the Champions since Rivals III. You could argue that Final Reckoning is like a Rivals 4 and War of the Worlds is like a Fresh Meat 3 but both had differences like splitting up the pairs on War of the Worlds and Final Reckoning having a split of same gender and opposite gender pairs competing against each other. Production should definitely not be repeating formats every single season but fans are often talking about wanting to see an Exes 3, Rivals 4, Duel 3 or Free Agents 2 and I am hoping we get at least one but hopefully more of these back in the next couple year.

Bring Back Rewards for Winning an Elimination

Some of the twists that I thought worked the best in recent seasons were the “Grenades” on Vendettas and the “Relic” on War of the Worlds, both were awarded to the winner of an elimination round allowing them to have safety or power in the game. Just like how producers have not repeated themes recently they have not brought either of these powers back, both were potential ways to shake up the power structure of the house either by taking a direct shot at another player or being safe from the next elimination round. At the very least if they do not want to bring one of these back or come up with a different power that effects the game I think bringing back the prizes like a watch or an X Box or a T Mobile sidekick would be hilarious.

Bring Back Individual Bank Accounts or All Finalists (except maybe last place) get Prize Money

Back in the day on big team seasons like The Inferno and The Gauntlet they used team bank accounts to distribute the prize money and everyone who made the final evenly split the money in the team bank. The show has moved on from those massive team seasons but had a good methods of using individual bank accounts they used on both The Ruins & Vendettas that I would be happy to see brought back. Considering the show has massively upped its prize money it is odd that now they have been splitting it between fewer people than when the prize was close to a third of the size. I would like to see how bringing back individual bank accounts could change the game with the prize stakes higher. At the very least I hope to see production start splitting the money a little more evenly between the finalists, obviously first place earned it and should get the majority but Leroy & Nany getting nothing on Double Agents was rough, second place on Total Madness getting nothing was odd and with ten people finishing the final on All Stars only giving one player prize money was crazy to me.

Be More Straight up about the Game Rules

The show has (over the last few seasons in particular) started trying to keep the players in the dark about the rules of the game by trying to get these gotcha moments like not revealing the red skull twist until after the first elimination, not saying if it was a men or women elimination on Double Agents, Not revealing what would happen if the lifesaver was used on All Stars and not telling the players what Aneesa’s medical DQ meant this season. It seems like TJ gets a lot out of fun trying to trick the players but other than that it does nothing for the show.

Being secretive about the rules encourages players to play as safe as possible to cover their ass. Compared to when the show is straight up about the rules it allows players to make big strategic moves because they are less likely to blow up in their face. Knowing the rules was essential to great strategic moves like Kam getting saving all of her friends on Final Reckoning, setting up the Evan & Nehemiah vs CT & Adam elimination on Rivals and setting up the KellyAnne vs Evelyn elimination on The Ruins. I hope producers go back because cutting to a commercial break just to be told the elimination is going to be exactly what players assumed is getting boring and they can save devious TJ for real twists.

Change the Time Slot Back to 9:00pm EST

For a long time The Challenge had been airing on Wednesday nights at 9:00pm but starting with Spies, Lies & Allies MTV made the decision to move it up to 8:00pm instead. This decision is in my mind a huge mistake as the show is now on at the same time as Big Brother and soon Survivor. The Challenge actively casts players from both of those shows and has brought in viewers following those cast members over to The Challenge. Now they are forcing fans to make the choice between which show to watch live and which to DVR or watch online. The ratings are down for The Challenge this season and I expect the overlap with Big Brother has been a factor and to make it worse all of these shows are owned by Viacom so they are fighting with themselves for viewers. It worked perfectly so fans could watch Survivor/ Big Brother on CBS and then change the channel to MTV in time for the start of The Challenge. At the very least the powers that be at MTV should go back to doing a rerun of the newest episode at around midnight for the fans that pick Survivor over The Challenge.

Stop Doing These Half Episodes of The Show!!

I had this idea for a while and was going to potentially save it for the off season but I was motivated to write it this week instead after feeling really let down by getting half an episode last week. I have not seen a single person who likes leaving the story on a cliff hanger like this. Fans are really used to getting the fall out from last episode, then a daily Challenge, then a party/club scene, then deliberation and finally the elimination round each week on the show. By messing with the episode timing it makes the show more difficult to follow, a casual fan who might have missed last week’s episode is going to have no context to what is going on when the episode starts and fans who watched last episode have been frustrated not excited by having to wait to see what happens. I was glad that when I thought production had stopped messing with the timing like this since it made Vendettas way worse in my opinion but to my disappointment last week I thought there was thirty more minutes of The Challenge only for Cribs to come on instead.

@HenryLDiMaria I blog about MTV’s The Challenge & other reality TV