I don’t watch that much TV anymore, but I felt compelled to record ABC’s “Wipeout” because it looked frighteningly similar to Spike’s “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge.” As I suspected, it was a blatant rip-off.
Although the premises of the shows are essentially the same, Wipeout doesn’t even compare to MXC. Anyone who’s seen the two shows knows what MXC has that Wipeout lacks: charm. MXC isn’t flashy, it’s fun, it has recurrent jokes (“Right you are, Ken” and “Don’t get eliminated!”), and most importantly, it doesn’t ever treat its viewers like they’re a bunch of morons. You could watch the show on mute and it’d be funny, but you’d never do that because you’d miss all the witty commentary (especially from Guy LeDouche – that’s his name, no kidding). They’ll say things like, “And now up for the Prostitute Team is Cheryl. She replaces the red light bulbs in the red light district” or “This is Mike for the Computer Team. He works in the manufacturing house as a bubble wrap inflator.” The contestants will always yell out ridiculous war cries, like “I bruise easily!” And of course, the constant barrage of thinly veiled innuendo is pretty damn funny, too.
I think it’s also worth noting that MXC contestants are far more likely to get injured than Wipeout contestants. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought “There’s absolutely no way that person is not paralyzed” during MXC. Which makes it more exciting and fun to watch.
It’s sad, but this sort of thing happens all the time. A small, but passionate, group of people will fall in love with a show/product/service, and then someone will try to duplicate their success by watering it down, making it easier to digest, and then feeding it to the masses. The Simpsons begat Family Guy, Chappelle’s Show begat Mind of Mencia, talented comedians begat Dane Cook, etc.
But the pendulum swings both ways. A lame product for the masses is refined for people who actually care, and that’s when ‘amazing’ and ‘remarkable’ happens. Internet Explorer begat Firefox, Budweiser begat New Belgium, Tabasco begat Blair’s Reserve, GMC begat Ferrari, McDonalds begat In-N-Out, Blackberry begat iPhone, etc.
If you don’t belong to that second group, quit. The masses suck up whatever nonsense is put in front of them; that’s what makes them the masses. Life’s too short for mediocrity, so live at the edges. Actively feed the ones who understand and appreciate what you do. Even if that means you’re only serving one.