June 10, 2008 12:51 PM by Lori Wilson
Combining physical agility with physical humor, the new game show “Wipeout” features the world’s largest obstacle course, which will undoubtedly produce the world’s most spectacular, um, wipeouts. If you like to see people crash, fall and take amazing face plants, this show is definitely for you. RealityTvMagazine.com was invited to get an inside look at the show while visiting the set and talking to the shows producers.
If you’ve seen the promos on ABC, then you know what this show is all about. If not, then executive producer Matt Kunitz spelled it out by saying, “We’re all about embracing humor on this show. It is about the laughs.”
But that doesn’t mean they are laughing at the contestants’ expense. During my time on the “Wipeout” set, I observed one contestant’s attempt to get through the first leg of the course. She wasn’t exactly what you would call fit, or necessarily someone you’d expect to see participating in a physically challenging contest, but Kunitz assured me that’s not where the humor comes from. “I don’t think the funny moments were of laughing at her weight or size, it was laughing at her wipeouts. She had great wipeouts. We wouldn’t play that to go ‘Oh, look. This big woman can’t get up on the ramp.’ That’s not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for the great wipeouts. She had great wipeouts, just as some skinny person might.”
The contest begins with a course called The Qualifier where twenty-four contestants go through it one at a time. During this timed event, the fastest twelve people move on to a group stunt, where the contestants are then widdled down to six players. Those six move on to another stunt, thereby eliminating two more people. From there, the final four go to the Wipeout Zone where they compete for a $50,000 prize.
The obstacles change each week and will involve outrageous challenges including Dizzy Dummy, Dirty Balls, The Dreadmill, Sucker Punch and of course Big Balls, which we’ve all seen on the commercials. The Big Balls is Matt Kunitz’s favorite stunt because, “We discovered early on, every time you bounce off of something, that’s pretty funny. Just dropping into the water isn’t funny, but if there’s a bounce and a ricochet and another bounce, that’s always good.”
The obstacles can obviously be completed, but they are ultimately created for failure. As course designer and co-executive producer Scott Larsen told me, “We look for about 90-95% failure on this show, that’s what we want. We like to see people pull it off, we like to show that it’s actually doable, you just have to be insanely good at it.”
As for how Larsen comes up with course ideas, he joked, “I come up with most of my challenges after a few beers laying in bed, sort of half awake, half falling asleep. So I kind of dream them up.” No wonder they’re such a challenge! Larsen has even tried out the stunts himself, but admitted, “I do very poorly.”
His favorite obstacle is called The Sweeper. As he described, “The sweeper arm goes around and everyone has to jump over the sweeper arm. It gets faster, it gets higher and higher. The first six actually move on, but the last person standing wins a thousand dollars. The most fun part for me is, this is Wipeout and the Wipeout way is, that last person standing? They get taken out too. So when they’re standing celebrating, going, ‘Woo! I won! I won!’ The bar’s still coming and whack! we take them out.”
Coming from “Fear Factor”, where Kunitz was the executive producer and Larsen was the stunt producer, they know a thing or two about giving audiences what they want. Roughly a year after that series ended, the duo thought it was time to do another big stunt show. However, Kunitz assured me “Wipeout” will have, “all of the fun, none of the gross” of “Fear Factor”.
As for who they look for to participate in the show, Kunitz explained, “We look for diversity clearly, and not just racial diversity, but all ages, all shapes, all sizes, male, female, various backgrounds, jobs. We’re looking for characters. We’re not looking for extreme athletes.”
Since this is a stunt based show, safety is a major concern, but I was assured the course is well padded, life vests are used for the water challenges, helmets are worn and paramedics are on standby, as I witnessed for myself on the set.
Hosted by John Henson (former host of E!’s “Talk Soup”) and John Anderson (ESPN’s “SportsCenter”), viewers will receive, as I can only imagine, a very colorful play by play commentary of the action, as well as on the field reports from co-host Jill Wagner.
Premiering Tuesday, June 24th, viewers who love to witness other people’s pain can catch “Wipeout” on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET. As Matt Kunitz summed it up, “If you like watching people slip and fall on ‘America’s Funniest Videos’, you know, rather than waiting for that to happen, we’re designing those falls.”
Bring on the funny!
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Photo Credit: ABC