The Challenge, especially in its early days, was meant to be a fun, lighthearted competition that would reunite prior Real World and Road Rules cast members. As the series progressed, “lighthearted” started to fly out the window. The show became a pressure cooker, designed to break people mentally and create an uncomfortable environment.
These seasons are haunted by a dark cloud that looms over them, creating an atmosphere more negative than positive. That doesn’t mean they’re bad shows, but there are elements that are uncomfortable or unenjoyable to watch.
There’s no uniform way to define “unpleasant,” but there are some commonalities throughout the mentioned seasons. Some of them are plagued by unsettling scandals, some of them have intentional manipulation of the cast’s wellbeing, and others invited personal, non-competition drama onto our screens.
5. Rivals 2
The unpleasant feeling during this season stems from one place: the sloppy editing. If you look at the house, it was very uncomfortable to live in. The AC broke, the food was disgusting, and Thailand is painfully humid. Production wasn’t doing much to alleviate the situation. Apparently Trishelle sliced her toe open on broken glass (the real reason why she left), and she didn’t get real help. There’s also uncomfortable drama involving Marlon, and it’s sad to see the treatment of Diem in retrospect, knowing she was struggling physically (though her cancer was in remission at the time). This isn’t even a dig at her cast mates. Apparently she got a lot of threats from fans after episode aired.
4. Final Reckoning
Likely, production wanted to let toxicity thrive during this season. It shouldn’t be a shock that production likes to force drama, and if that was the goal this season, they succeeded. Nothing was off limits, from cheating on partners, to spreading lies about affairs, to wishing death upon horses. It felt like each episode had painful drama looming over it, and we’d see it during the ample time when competitions weren’t on our screens.
3. Total Madness
There’s a weird irony while watching this season, where the cast was being sequestered in a bunker. By the time it aired, the reality of being quarantined from the world hit home a little too hard. But it’s not just the unexpected parallels with reality. This season forced mental and physical trauma by putting the cast in a dark and uncomfortable bunker. Many people were cracking under the pressure, but viewers might not know this. Midway through, the season got edited down thanks to Dee’s comments. It felt like one week were were mocking Mattie’s DUI, and the next week we were getting quick scenes of Dee smiling and graciously accepting her nomination into another elimination.
2. Battle of the Bloodlines
Is anyone surprised Cara Maria won this season? She was the star from the start, and the show did begin innocently enough. That is, until Abe was brought in for some cringy and uncomfortable drama. I’m all for love triangles, but production intentionally flew Abe onto the show because he’d help Cara win and he’d be utterly humiliated by the alleged cheating with Tom. We all know Abe can be intense, and many of the moments where Cara should be celebrating are ruined by drama and watching a relationship crumble on national TV.
1. The Ruins
Perhaps this season has a negative feel for the obvious reasons, but MTV has swept this under the rug to the best of their ability. But when you watch the show, negativity fueled the season. There’s hyperpersonal drama, extending the the point of Johanna threatening Wes with the deed to his house. We also see constant bullying, particularly with Tonya and Sarah as the targets. Many people left the season with a bad taste in their mouths, and I’m not just talking about the cast.