Not too long ago, Bananas took to Instagram to talk about the recent crop of Challenge contestants. He said it seems like new Challengers seem like they can come from anywhere. All you need is your 15 minutes of fame from a reality show and you can join The Challenge.
He said that back in the days, the time when he was cast, MTV only cast the cream of the crop. He claimed he was one of 200,000 auditioning for Real World: Key West. So when people like himself, Wes, Jenn, Brad, Svetlana, or Lacey were cast they were outstanding personalities. Now, anyone can get onto the show.
I don’t 100% agree, but there is some merit to the roots of his concerns. When Bananas was cast on the show, viewers got to know him before he was on The Challenge. Even though he left The Duel first, RW: Key West viewers had some investment in Bananas. How you can get someone like Rogan, who no one in America knew, have him leave first, and then he gets a second chance.
In all fairness, Rogan, was a pretty popular reality star in the UK. He had made an impression on Ex on the Beach, but no one in the US knew him.
While Rogan was on UK reality TV, The Real World was crumbling in the US. After seeing ratings for Go Big or Go Home and Bad Blood, I understand why a logical network would pull the plug on that show. Are You the One? wasn’t fairing much better, and MTV needed some new blood to keep The Challenge fresh.
When MTV cast Natalie and Victor from Big Brother, they were making a strategic move. When they cast Kayleigh, Joss, Rogan, Kyle, and Melissa they were using a different strategy. Big Brother averages quintuple the viewers of The Challenge, so some of their viewers were going to migrate over to MTV to watch fan favorites like Victor. Meanwhile, the UK kids are certifiably entertaining, even if we didn’t know them. They were going to invest viewers in fresh storylines. On Vendettas, it worked.
Now, the strategy is getting old, so where should the newbies come from?
Ideally, MTV should try to cast from competition shows in the US. Big Brother is a good source, as is Survivor. American viewers could have investments in these characters, so someone could watch The Challenge and root for a BB alumni like Fessie after watching him on Big Brother. MTV can also use current shows like Ex on the Beach, assuming that show doesn’t get cancelled. Some people have segued from other reality shows to Ex on the Beach, then The Challenge. I would also want Are You the One to be included, but if the series is cancelled I don’t see this as a viable source of competitors if the series is cancelled.
I would like to see a decrease in UK transplants unless they have appears on another show. Perhaps if they fit into a theme they could debut, but this is largely where the perception of “random” cast members comes from. Despite this, it’s hard to deny that some UK competitors have added a lot to the show.
Further, MTV should try to get notable cast members from external shows. We don’t need first boots from The Amazing Race or Big Brother to compete on The Challenge. The people who come from other shows should serve as an attempt to bring viewers from that show, and first-boots aren’t going to do that.
I do see a dilemma when it comes to casting new people. While that hasn’t hurt the show yet, I don’t think MTV has figured out a winning strategy yet. I started watching The Real World and Road Rules because I wanted to know competitors before they appeared on The Challenge. I don’t think I’ll ever need to do that again, and I am getting used to having competitors whose backstory is irrelevant to me.