The 8 Casting Rules The Challenge Production Should Adopt

Henry L DiMaria
8 min readFeb 8, 2022

If you ask me, one of the weaker aspects of The Challenge recently has been the cast. More specifically, the problem lies with how repetitive the vets have been which results in everyone having a similar dynamic season. A favorite thing for a lot of Challenge fans during the downtime in-between seasons, (myself included), is to make fantasy cast lists for future seasons. Obviously, I am not trying to say that I know better than the producers. But the many people agreeing that the recent seasons' casts have been lackluster got me thinking about how this casting issue could be solved. Therefore, here are my suggestions of 8 rules/guidelines that I think production should follow when casting future Challenge seasons.

In my opinion, a core problem is that there has been far too much of the same large group of people back season after season. This is the basic framework around how I think production should go about making a cast for Challenge seasons (excluding times like Fresh Meat, Invasion of the Champions, or Battle of the Bloodlines where the casting and theme are inherently tied). First, I broke The Challenge cast into four main groups. Ideally, each group would be balanced to make up one-quarter of the cast on that season.

1: I think they should try to balance the repeated cast members with rookies. Rookies are important, both because they keep bringing in new people to replace people who leave and because the dynamic of people trying to figure out how to play the game against experienced players is interesting.

2: The next group I want to see is what I call the “new veterans,” by which I mean contestants that have only done one or two previous seasons. These are people who are still getting their feet under them and hopefully developing into Challenge regulars.

3: I would also like to keep seeing a solid group of challenge regulars, people who are on all the time and are the faces of the show that keep storylines going from one season to the next.

4: Finally, I want to see the last group be made up of veterans who were not on the last season, maybe they took a season or two off, maybe they are a legend and now making their return, or maybe they just weren’t right for the prior season's theme.

Regarding rookies, a general guideline The Challenge should follow while casting is to bias younger, (35 & under), like they did on Spies, Lies and Allies. This is because I think the best rookies are people who have potential that the show can invest in to become stars as opposed to casting preexisting stars. Younger people also tend to be available longer, compared to those who only compete on The Challenge for a few seasons which leaves the show needing to find more new people. I also find younger contestants to be more genuine since they are less likely involved in a bunch of manufactured drama. Finally, this is not necessarily something exclusive to age, but older people are more likely to be in committed relationships. Having the potential for relationship drama and hookups is an option I like to see in news rookie coming on The Challenge.

The next problem I have with casting is going to be a controversial one. I know not all fans will be on the same page with me on this, but I think that there should not be any crossing of contestants between All Stars and the main show. If the goal is to keep trying to make both shows successful then I think it is important to give them each their own identities. Both shows lose those distinct identities when production casts people as regulars on both. I believe if contestants are mixed back and forth between the All Stars and normal Challenge it can make things confusing for people trying to keep up with both and I’d rather see each have their “faces of the franchise.”

The one potential exception I would be okay with would be using top All Stars as mercenaries (but not the kind that enter the game) or vice versa because that already is bringing in somebody out of nowhere and I think it would be good cross-promotion between the two shows which makes sense. Finally, I think it would then be a bigger spectacle to do an All Stars vs Current Stars Challenge later down the road instead of people going from one to the other.

Another thing I really want to see The Challenge do is to commit to a diversity initiative like the other CBS/Viacom Reality competition shows (Survivor, Big Brother and The Amazing Race) and make the public commitment to always have at least half their cast being BIPOC moving forward. The Challenge casting has been pretty good with diversity as of recently and the last four seasons have all had 50% or more BIPOC contestants. The Challenge publicly committing to this level of diversity moving forward is something I would be thrilled to see as it ties back to the original vision of The Real World by bringing together people with a diversity of ideas and experiences as well as aligning with the modern world's fight for representation.

In a similar manner, I would like to see The Challenge work towards the expansion of representation for people in the LGBT+ community. Again, this is an area in which The Challenge has improved by casting more a diversity of people from across the LGBT+ community like with Frank in the mid-20s, Marlon on Rivals II, and Corey Lay last season. However back in the day, the few LGBT+ people cast often were shown stereotypically.

The gay men were almost always being presented as the effeminate, party-loving, sassy, horny guys who were not seriously there for the competition, (Think Dan Renzi, Shane, Ryan & Davis, etc). Likewise, many of the prominent queer women have been the hyper-athletic, all about the competition type like Ruthie, Rachel & Evelyn. All of these competitors are more than the stereotypes may suggest. Ideally in the future, I’d like to see closer to 25% of the cast LGBT+ as well as a concerted effort to show people as whole people apart from just their sexuality. I want more positive representation, as we’ve seen with the celebration of Kaycee & Nany’s relationship.

Another casting-related thing I want to see from The Challenge production team is more casting of international contestants. From the “British Invasion” on Vendettas through to crossing the globe on War of the Worlds and Spies, Lies & Allies the Inclusion of people from many different countries has brought something unique to the show. I feel that the introduction of international contestants has added some strong personalities like Bear, Rogan(excluding Vendettas), Jenny, Dee, Turbo, Georgia, & Theo who were big parts of the seasons they were on. Additionally, this brought both Big T & Kyle who have become staples of the past few years, as well as players like Priscilla, Logan, Emy & Emanuel who all have the potential for future success coming off strong rookie seasons on Spies, Lies and Allies. The mixing of people from across the globe is unique and something I would like to see expanded further to potentially include people from Survivor Australia, South Africa & New Zealand, and Big Brother Canada & Australia (all of which I have watched at least some of.)

The next thing that I want to see for casting future seasons is more back-to-back champions. I mentioned this recently when discussing MJ in my ranking of the All Stars 2 cast by how much I want to see them back.

I think that as a rule of thumb the winners of the previous season should at a minimum have a slot open for them on the next season. This is not something I feel should have been a hard and fast rule when there were up to nine on the original Gauntlet, but The Challenge has progressed over the years towards having fewer winners. The last time they had more than 4 winners was all the way back on The Challenge season 18, The Ruins. I know that I was not alone in thinking that it was a ridiculous decision for Amber to be made an alternate on Spies, Lies and Allies and Jenny West not being used for Double Agents, especially with the general lack of female champions on the show. I feel like it is always a fairly interesting storyline to watch the most recent champions defend themselves with their new champion title painting a target on their back. of course, my exception to this rule would be circumstances when someone who says they are “retiring” from the Challenge or things have come up causing them to be banned from the show.

On the subject of players being banned from the show, another change I would like to see from production is more transparency about decisions to ban or suspend players. The show condemns the actions of people like Bear or Rogan whom MTV have not publicly broken ties. Without a public statement, fans are left asking them why those players are not on the show anymore. In recent years MTV and The Challenge producers have been open about ending their relationships with Dee after her insensitive comments about the Black Lives Matter movement as well as Mattie after her repeated DUIs. I feel like if the show were more open about “banning” or “suspending” players (as they have allegedly done to CT for fighting, Nelson after punching Derrick and Kailah & Melissa after their altercation on Final Reckoning) they would be more effective at discouraging that behavior in the future, particularly if they stated the reasons for those choices being made.



Henry L DiMaria

I blog primarily about The Challenge but occasionally stretch into other reality TV @HenryLDiMaria