I’m not one for watching sports on TV, but I’m a sucker for appalling summer shows and Wipeout is the best of the worst. Although not a traditional “sport” (but with an endless parade of instant replays it counts Husband), this show features average Joes and Janes (okay, often less than average) attempting to race through a grueling obstacle course as quickly as possible. It’s the foot race part of the show that may appeal to running readers, although more than a run Wipeout is an outrageous steeplechase (which is by far the best T&F event).
The show, billed as “the world’s largest extreme obstacle course”, challenges contestants to survive a series of four roadblock-filled races. The three preliminary heats reduce the starting field of twenty-four to four finalists vying for a $50,000 cash prize. Fastest time in the last trial, the ominous (I know it’s ominous because of the dangerous sounding musical score) Wipeout Zone, wins all. Successful completion of each round necessitates luck, speed, agility, strength, and the ability to withstand a sucker punch. The term ‘obstacle course’ might bring to mind an army-style high fence to climb and netting to run under, but that image is very wrong. The numerous hurdles, designed by a madman, appeal to high-brow summer reality TV viewers like me. To wit, contestants take on comical stunts like the trademark Big Balls, Banana Hammocks, Fender Benders, and Dreadmill, while the commentators document the contestant’s progress with a series of bad puns and a hefty dose of mockery.
As anticipated, failure to overcome any obstacle results in a spectacular wipeout. Appealing to short attention spans, most challenges are all but impossible to complete and a wipeout is always imminent. Truly, spectacular isn’t an emphatic enough word to describe the wipeouts. Cringe-worthy. Horrifying. Sickening. Potentially fatal. You may find yourself gasping out loud, such is the shock of the “crashes, smashes, and mud splashes”. I suspect the stack of legal documents would-be contenders must sign before participating is NBA player high. This show has lawsuit written all over it. I’m convinced I’ve witnessed a dozen traumatic brain injuries and near paralysises. Such is the thrill of watching. You don’t want to stare, but you can’t look away.
Wednesdays at 8 pm on ABC.
Title Reference: The Surfaris – Wipe Out. Single released 1962.