MTV's 'The Challenge: Rivals II' is just stupid fun ... and there's no shame in that

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comJuly 19, 2013 


Robb (RS) & Derek (DC)


I devote a fair amount of my time to intellectual pursuits, wanting to learn more and understand better the world around me and the people in it.

I read the newspaper and well-respected magazines, I listen to NPR and watch critically acclaimed television shows and films and spend time discussing all of the above with like-minded friends and colleagues.

In short, I experience the world through a critical and analytical lens and I likely always will.

But that can sometimes get tiring, and my brain needs a rest.

And, for me, nothing satisfies my urge for mindless entertainment like MTV's "Real World/Road Rules Challenge" reality game show franchise, the title of which has since been shortened simply to "The Challenge" in recent years. After all, one needn't challenge the show's hardcore devotees with an overcomplicated title, not to mention "Road Rules" was inexplicably killed by the network in 2007.

The 24th season of MTV's "The Challenge," dubbed "Rivals II," premiered July 10, pitting 32 borderline sociopaths against one another in a series of physical and -- don't laugh -- mental challenges for cash.

This season again forces past contestants who, because of existing "Challenge" quarrels, loathe each other to team up in the interest of winning a large, "life-changing" sum of money, as host and pro BMX rider T.J. Lavin describes it.

While I've always thought the show should be called "Please, Oh Please, Don't Make Me Get a Real Job," because of the number of repeat offenders ... err, contestants ... that seem to crop up on every installment of the franchise, the show is entertaining enough and features a cast of colorful, and likely chemically imbalanced, people who long ago stopped being polite and started getting real.

There are fights, often fueled by alcohol, hookups, often fueled by alcohol, and other, assorted drama, also likely fueled by alcohol.

Not unlike "Survivor" and other shows of its ilk, the most entertaining and watchable parts of each episode typically aren't the physical challenges themselves but the behind-the-scenes political machinations and strategic alliances that are formed to send certain people home and keep certain people around.

Even the elimination challenges, usually given some ominous-sounding name like "The Gauntlet" or, in this case, "The Jungle," are only entertaining because of the underlying political entanglements and fallout that could result from a team's victory or defeat.

And, apparently, I'm not alone in my love for this dross.

According to SocialGuide, an off-shoot of the all-powerful Nielsen Company, the premiere episode of "Rivals II" was the most watched show on cable the night it aired among 12- to 34-year-olds, a prized demographic for advertisers.

"Masterpiece Theatre" it is not, but if you're looking to turn off your brain for an hour each week, this show is just the ticket.

"Rivals II" airs at 10 p.m. every Wednesday on MTV.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at

The trailer for "The Challenge: Rivals II"


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