In the past, I’ve written about Challenge seasons that changed the course of the show. I’ve talked about The Island, The Inferno 3, The Gauntlet, Rivals 2, and Dirty Thirty. Now, I want to take a look back at a more recent season, but one that forever changed the course of the show: Total Madness.
Of course, we’re going to talk about the obvious, but this season actually looked like a good step in the right direction at first. Casting choices made sense and weren’t too overwhelming. It looked like Big Brother and CBS shows were becoming our primary source of cast members, and we even got an Are You the One? rookie (kinda). This was a pivot away from the seemingly random international newbies.
We also saw the bunker, which was a dumb twist. The Czech Republic was cold and dreary, we didn’t need a bunker to make it worse, but this wasn’t The Island, there were challenges.
Then, the Dee incident happened, and Dee was rightfully reprimanded for making tone-deaf comments. So production mostly edited her out of the show, which was a big deal. Not only did it mark a severe punishment, but it ruined the story of the season: a season filmed months before the comments.
There are two issues here; the first (and less severe) being the edit. The second half of the season made no sense, but Dee was playing a dirty game. She was trying to keep people out of Purgatory and throw stronger girls in there. We saw some evidence of this through Melissa’s gameplay, but it was mostly removed from the show.
The second issue: it highlighted MTV’s hypocrisy. Other cast members made insensitive comments in the past without receiving punishment. A lot of eyes shifted to Jordan for his behavior on Real World Portland, but he was not alone. So MTV seemed to punish them retroactively, resulting in some bans.
On Double Agents and Spies, Lies, and Allies we’ve seen a lot of changes to the edit. Fights are edited out, and anything that’s semi-controversial gets left on the cutting room floor. We see very few fights, and the ones we see are game-related. It feels like we’re just watching for the competition, and that’s not the sole purpose of The Challenge. The show was born out of The Real World; it’s meant to be controversial.
Thanks to the removal of Dee, MTV severed its last remaining tie to The Real World. Total Madness dived into a lot of personal drama (like the Zach & Jenna fights, Bear & Kailah hooking up, or the Nany & Aneesa fight), and we haven’t seen much of that. 90-minute episodes allow plenty of time for backstories, but production is too afraid of making another controversy.
Sadly, I think The Challenge will continue to be edited in this fashion- but not All Stars, and that’s why the fans love it.