“People like to see other people, for some weird reason, do crazy stuff on TV.” That’s Kaycee Clark’s explanation for why MTV’s long-running reality competition show The Challenge has remained so popular since launching in 1998. But Clark isn’t just a fan of the show; she’s a winner too, having triumphed in Season 37’s Spies, Lies & Allies edition.
“It’s just very relatable to a lot of people,” said Clark, who won Big Brother 20 on CBS before jumping to play The Challenge during Season 35 (Total Madness) and Season 36 (Double Agents). Clark, along with longtime contestant Chris “CT” Tamburello, showrunner Emer Harkin and host T.J. Lavin, joined Deadline’s Contenders Television: Documentary + Unscripted award-season event to discuss the show.
“It’s the weirdest thing. But I think with this game, it’s just so strategic,” she continued. “It’s hard not to get into it, and it’s been around for such a long time. So I mean, the show’s doing something right. I love it. I absolutely love it.”
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And it’s now a worldwide phenomenon. Harkin said The Challenge, originally a spinoff of The Real World and Road Rules, now airs in multiple continents. The format is pretty simple: Contestants compete against one another in various extreme challenges to avoid elimination. Winners get a cash prize.
“There’s a lot happening in The Challenge universe,” Harkin said. “It has a cult following around the world, and our casting this season reflected that. The show is literally expanding to where we’re gonna be rolling out the franchise in multiple continents, beyond our flagship, which is obviously The Challenge here in the States. It’s totally crazy. We’re so excited. We’re totally beyond proud of our show. For me, our games are on another level. Our casts are at another level, Kaycee being a prime example.”
Another example is Tamburello, an alum of The Real World: Paris who has competed in multiple — and we mean multiple — seasons of The Challenge, culminating with his win (with Clark) on the recent Spies, Lies & Allies. His cash prizes have exceeded $1.3 million. He’s one of the many reasons fans return again and again to the show.
“I always say I got lucky,” Tamburello said. “I hit the lottery. I won a free trip, and my 15 minutes has lasted 15 years. I try not to think about how many I’ve done, but I’ve come to appreciate the show so much more as I’ve gotten older. I feel like I’ve grown up on television. I was 21, 22 when I started, and I’m gonna be 42 in July. To be able to watch myself evolve over the years, I’d like to think I’ve changed for the better.
“What I do you appreciate about the show now is that I can see so many people, Kaycee included, who have grown [as competitors on the show]. How do you continuously raise the bar for 37 seasons? I don’t know the magic answer to that, but I do know that it just continuously gets bigger and bigger.”
Check out the panel video above.
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