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Burning Shame

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 10, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 10, 2009 |

I could’ve written an entire review of ABC’s obstacle-course, kick-in-the-junk porn “Wipeout,” after watching less than five minutes of the show. It’s a blue-ball sack of mental depravity, a show some dumb that even Johnny Damon and Shia LaBeouf could follow along. I’d call it retarded, but I wouldn’t want to insult the intelligence of Jimmy Fallon. It is sublimely moronic, an Al Pacino Hoo-HA of crap.

Yet I watched the whole goddamn show. And I laughed more times than I care to admit. And afterward, I called in my far more serious-minded wife and forced her to watch five minutes of the show. And when she wasn’t questioning the show’s logic or worried about the safety of the contestants, she too guffawed periodically, although she still had enough residual mental wherewithal remaining to extract herself at the commercial break, leaving me in a guilt puddle, a fetal ball of shame, left with three brain cells, temporary CAPS LOCK paralysis, and a permanent twitch.

For those of you blessedly unfamiliar with “Wipeout,” try to ensure that you never encounter it. Don’t even turn on your television on Wednesday nights, and if you forget and inadvertently flip past it, Oedipalize your eyeballs and scurry from the room. It’s nearly impossible to look away from, which is why it was last summer’s top rated show among adults 18-49. Combine face plants, belly flops, and junk-busting pirouettes with a target audience that lacks willpower, and you’ve got a hit on your hands. “Wipeout” is “America’s Funniest Home” videos on an obstacle course of shame, only in this case, the people taking jarring ooofs to the face are doing so voluntarily.

It’s a simple show tailor made for drunks and the concussed. Twenty-four contestants take turns tackling an impossible, foam-covered obstacle course for the chance at winning $50,000. There are three rounds; the first is the best because it apparently is impossible to actually complete any leg of it. There are four legs of floating obstacles, and of the 24 contestants I watched, only one man — by complete accident — even came close to finishing one of them and that’s because his momentum nearly bounced him over three giant inflated bouncy balls and onto his stomach. The point, I take it, is not to actually complete any one of the obstacles, but to withstand the foam-covered brutality and humiliation and keep going.

And in “Wipeout,” overweight contestants are your friend.

The middle two rounds, which narrow the field down to a final four, aren’t as compelling, although there is some joy in watching six people spun around several minutes and then asked to run through a door that’s also spinning. It all leads to the Final Wipeout Challenge, which is hard enough that — in the episode I watched — one person quit before finishing and another was disqualified due to injury. And despite all the padding, the helmets, and the teeth guards, there actually does seem to be a decent threat of actual danger, at least by drowning (all the courses are on water).

John Henson, formerly of “Talk Soup” and ESPN’s John Anderson host, which basically amounts to mocking the contestants with a series of puns, although they do manage to land a decent joke every few minutes. But the show would probably be even more shamefully fun to watch if it was muted and you supplied your own running commentary, preferably while huffing paint fumes. It provides the ideal watching experience.

Dustin Rowles is a very famous Internet personality, although he’s still working on a Wikipedia page. You can email him or leave a comment below.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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