Challenge fans may like one thing more than watching the show itself: complaining about it.
Every season, there’s some new issue to whine about. Usually, this has to do with the format, casting, or the way production edited/ aired the show. Often, these issues are corrected with time, or age better than expected.
A lot of people will find this topic negative, and while it kind of is, The Challenge is also designed to be entertaining. Complaining about it isn’t that deep, and it’s a good thing that the franchise has a base of dedicated viewers who will watch the show despite its shortcomings. So I’m looking back at the one biggest complaint from each season, starting with Battle of the Seasons. This is all based on my perception, so I could be wrong, but I can promise we were definitely chatting about these issues while the seasons were airing.
Battle of the Seasons– This game isn’t fair.
The thing that made Battle of the Seasons so interesting at the beginning was the same thing that angered fans. The Inner Circle was voting off competitors who were doing well rather than the teams with the fewest points on the scoreboard. Some people loved this, but a lot of people were mad about it.
Battle of the Sexes– This game isn’t fair.
While the same issue from Battle of the Seasons carried over to this season, the perceived unfairness was due to gender differences rather than decisions made by the Inner Circle.
The Gauntlet– Why does Sarah keep getting voted in?
While the introduction of elimination rounds improved the game for the better, people were super frustrated by the same people, particularly Sarah Greyson, getting voted into The Gauntlet many times. Similarly, people were upset that some people avoided elimination because they held status in the game. The latter issue pertains to Veronica and Coral more than anyone else.
The Inferno– What is this format?
This season is one of the most beloved seasons of the show, but viewers were annoyed by teams voting in two players, then the opposing team picking one. Not to mention, only 8 people were eliminated through the format.
Battle of the Sexes 2– This game isn’t fair.
Much like the first Sexes, this season was very imbalanced. The sequel got more criticism for its organization of the Inner Circle, which wasn’t merit-based and meant a lot of strong competitors went home before weaker ones.
The Inferno 2– Where are the competitions?
While people love this season, and it’s a wild, dramatic ride, the competition is secondary to the arguments. People were annoyed by the constant hating on Tonya and the fact that episodes only showed a few moments of competition in between arguments.
The Gauntlet 2– The captain twist sucks.
When the cast was first revealed, there were a lot of viewers complaining about casting decisions. But once episodes started to air, people got really annoyed by the captain twist. The same people needed to go into eliminations over and over, while many people skated by and lasted until the end without doing much.
Fresh Meat– Who?
In retrospect, a lot of the Fresh Meat have become fan favorites, but during the original airing, viewers were split. Some people thought it was cool (and a confirmation that Road Rules was done), but other people felt this would ruin the integrity of the show. The second biggest complaint was the formatting of the show because people wanted Fresh Meat to compete against the vets. Looking at the success of the Fresh Meat cast post-Fresh Meat, it’s clear we would have had a pretty good competition.
The Duel– Where’s [insert name]?
After Fresh Meat, viewers worried that the new kids weren’t just going to be added to the casting pool, they would replace the veterans. When the cast of The Duel was revealed, it seemed like a lot of the big names were absent, aside from Beth, Tina, and CT. But, our fears would be put at ease as time progressed.
The Inferno 3– Who cast these teams?
On The Inferno 2, the Bad Asses were really bad and infamous cast members. On The Inferno 3, not so much. Evelyn was on the team, and she only appeared on one episode of Fresh Meat. Meanwhile, the Good Guys weren’t so good, and that only got worse when they were playing games like “I hate Tonya” and throwing missions.
The Gauntlet 3– These teams are too imbalanced.
If there’s one thing The Gauntlet 2 got right, it was balancing the teams. On The Gauntlet 3, not so much. The Rookies never really stood a chance. Production gave them some serious advantages to win, and even with those advantages, they lost some of the missions. Then, the Rookies won, but should they have?
The Island– Where are the challenges?
There’s a lot to question about this season, and the misogyny has aged terribly, but the lack of actual challenges makes this season feel like a failed experiment rather than a true Challenge season.
The Duel 2– Is this an individual season?
People loved the original Duel because it was the first individual season, and it allowed people to fight their way to the end of the season without alliances. The sequel was more predictable, and competitors would figure out the entire selection process before calling any names. If there were any doubts that this wasn’t a partnered game, the final really made sure we knew people had to work with other competitors.
The Ruins– Too much bullying.
This season had a stellar cast, and the format made teams quite imbalanced, but that’s not the reason The Ruins lives in infamy. Episodes were filled with hyper-personal fights and over-the-top insults. This resulted in physical altercations, and some of the ugliest controversies to plague the show.
Fresh Meat 2– This is the Wes & Kenny show.
Despite Landon winning this season, much of the show was centered on alliances. Specifically, it was very two-sided with Wes on one side and Kenny on the other. Admittedly, this aged fairly well, but at the time the show was airing, people were annoyed by the back and forth.
Cutthroat– Where’s [insert name]?
History has been very kind to this season, but people weren’t too thrilled when the cast was first announced. Most of the big names were missing (Kenny, Evan, CT, Wes, and Evelyn for example), but we had plenty of Fresh Meat 2 kids and even a random person from the Spring Break Challenge.
Rivals– RIP Road Rules.
Though Rivals ended up being a big success for The Challenge, it received criticism for some of the casting decisions. Firstly, people thought the themed seasons would ruin the integrity of the show, but people were more upset with the lack of Roadies. This season meant people would be omitted from the show because they didn’t fit a specific production mold.
Battle of the Exes– These are exes?
While Exes was an exciting theme, some of the pairings were a bit odd. Teams like Johnny & Camila and Sarah & Vinny barely had any on-screen interactions prior to this season. This became a big source of frustration when Bananas dominated and won the season.
Battle of the Seasons– WTF happened to the cast?
This season was very experimental, and that brought a lot of complaints. Most notably, it felt like all of the true veterans were gone. So when a rookie team did win, it felt unearned because they didn’t need to face the real vets.
Rivals 2– Heights over water.
During the first episode, the random Frank and Johnny twitter rivalry set the internet ablaze, but as the season progressed, people became more upset with the endless missions involving heights and water. Production definitely tapered back in later seasons, but “heights over water” became a bit of a running gag on later seasons.
Free Agents– Randomly rewarded.
History has been very kind to this season, but as it was airing, viewers were annoyed that random people skated to the end thanks to the draw. The season also allowed people to get power and become team captains because TJ pulled chips out of a bag.
Battle of the Exes 2– Ex-iled
For the first time, Battle of the Exes 2 introduced a redemption-esque twist. While it allowed Bananas and Nany back into the game, fans had a lot of criticisms about this. Was it only invented to save one of the fan favorites? And it became a lot more annoying once Bananas came back, ruined Wes’s game, and he never got to compete to return.
Battle of the Bloodines– WTF is this format?
Two people go home while only one competes in The Pit? Two big teams rather than pairs? The weird mesh of co-ed and same-sex teams? It was all a mess.
Rivals 3– Enough of the cliffhangers.
Other seasons had a cliffhanger or two, but Rivals 3 took it to a new level. It felt like every episode ended before and elimination or at the start of a challenge. Of course, this complaint would be washed away with time and people would mostly just feel bad for Sarah.
Invasion– WTF is this format?
One team of Underdogs, another team of Champions. You’d think it would be obvious to make them compete against each other, but instead, eliminations were separated by teams for no reason. Then, the final blended Underdogs and Champs.
Dirty Thirty– This season is taking forever.
The original looong season, Dirty Thirty featured the cliffhangers of Rivals 3 and the redemption house from Battle of the Exes 2. Did the season work out? Yes. Was it four episodes too long? Also yes.
Vendettas– Who the fuck is Melissa/Kyle/Rogan/Joss/Kayleigh?
As much as I liked Vendettas, it was an utter mess. It was also the first time Big Brother appeared on the show, but people didn’t care too much because the five random UK transplants had people scratching their heads even more. We understood that The Real World & Road Rules were over, but that’s where they found new competitors? From the UK?
Final Reckoning– Bring on some different faces.
So. Many. Complaints. The length, the mercenaries, the redemption house, and the genderless format. Yet one complaint outlasted them all. All of the veterans this season were cast on either Dirty Thirty or Vendettas. We were getting sick of seeing all the same faces, though we’d regret complaining about this in a few seasons.
War of the Worlds– No, don’t bring on those people.
Wes and Nany came back, but aside from them, all veterans on this appeared on Final Reckoning (aside from Leroy who did Vendettas). But we did get a lot of new faces. Too many, in fact. We really just wanted people who hadn’t done a season in a year or two.
War of the Worlds 2– Stop trying to make the UK happen.
War of the Worlds brought us a lot of new blood, and we liked some of them, but then we got more UK cast members. We want a chance to get to know people before production flushes them and replaces them with random people from across the pond.
Total Madness– The edit that ruined the season.
This season took some weird approaches. The bunker wasn’t necessary, production forgot the meaning of tribunal, and the skull twist backfired. But everyone was talking about Dee’s removal and the way it disrupted the flow of the season (as well as other political issues, but let’s not get started there).
Double Agents– Stop this skull nonsense.
While the skull twist didn’t work well on Total Madness, people were more forgiving because it was an experiment. This time, it just made the show more boring than necessary. It ruined the competitive nature of eliminations and made the match-ups predictable.
Spies, Lies, and Allies– Cast some different people, but ones we know.
With the exception of Amanda, everyone on this (massive) cast fell into one of two camps: appeared on Double Agents or appeared as a rookie. People are getting really sick of the same old faces, but they’re even more annoyed by cast members losing the opportunity to return so random people from Romanian TV can appear on an American show.