When I saw the first promo ad for Wipeout, featuring a chubby lady in a life jacket sliding down a giant water slide studded with bumper-like columns, and bouncing off giant red balls, my first thought was: Fun! I could do that! However, if the show is a hit, I don't think I'll apply to be a contestant. I'm much more afraid of embarrassing myself on national television than hurting myself.
Embarrassing the contestants is the hook with Wipeout. It's from Matt Kunitz, Fear Factor's executive producer, and it's like Fear Factor, minus the eating gross stuff, and with the addition of slapstick comedy. John Henson (formerly of Talk Soup) and SportsCenter's John Anderson provide classic-style color commentary, complete with the occasional Telestrator gag, that pokes fun at the contestant currently on the obstacle course, while Jill Wagner interviews the contestants and supplies commentary from the course.
The game starts each week with 24 contestants, who are narrowed down to one $50K winner by the end of the show. The tasks consist of the big obstacle course we saw in the promos, as well other games like the "sweeper," which makes contestants stand on podiums and jump over a giant rotating arm. The jumping looked hard, but all in all, the tasks involve a lot of mud and big, colorful, padded apparatuses. It's kind of like Double Dare for grownups, if Mark Summers were really snarky and sarcastic.
While it's not fine viewing by any means, Wipeout is more entertaining than you might think. Most of the jokes are pretty stupid, but every once in awhile one will be funny. And watching people get bounced off of those giant red balls is still funny after one episode, which is longer than I would have expected. I would still never want to be a contestant, and won't become a regular viewer, but I can think of worse ways to pass a summer evening. I wouldn't mind a crack at the obstacle course, either. As long as there's not a single camera anywhere in the vicinity, of course.
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Amy Kane spends as much quality time with her television as possible, when she's not busy at her day job as a cube dweller.