ABC's 'Wipeout' Continues to Soar with High Ratings
ABC's 'Wipeout' Continues to Soar with High Ratings
If you think reality series are dead, think again.  This midseason, a fresh batch of shows surprised us with the craziest antics and most foolish ideas, and surprisingly, viewers caught the reality competition bug and stuck toe the tube like moth to the flame.  In fact, the Baltimore Sun reported last month that ABC’s Wipeout has emerged as the highest-rated new program of the summer season, garnering around 10 million viewers per week.  That 10 million is comprised of mostly adults with ages ranging from 18 to 49, which make up the demographic most favored by advertisers.  Another game show to hit it big with the ratings is ABC’s I Survived a Japanese Game Show, which earned around 8 million viewers per week.  So what do these game shows have that attract viewers?

University of Maryland, College Park professor of popular culture Sheri Parks explains, "The appeal on one level involves ridicule and laughing at the other.  But I think some of the shows are also about survival in almost an apocalyptic sense.  They ask the question:  Are you tough enough to survive in these [post- 9/11] times."

Recently, executive producer for ABC's Wipeout Matt Kunitz spoke about the conceptualization and mechanics of the show, explaining that “[ABC] wanted to create a family show that had all the fun of Fear Factor without the grossness.  On Fear Factor, though, we tried to have the contestants achieve a 50-percent success rate.  Here, it's more like 10 percent.  Viewers don't want to see people succeed.”

So what kind of stunts have to be done for the success rate to be really low?  Kunitz says, “The simpler the stunt, the better the wipeout will be.  The best is when someone hits something, then bounces off or ricochets and falls into the water.”

As for the "mud" that the contestants seem to enjoy landing into, it's actually called pitcher's mound clay.  Kunitz explains that "it has a consistency that stays thick all day.  When you hit it, it absorbs the impact."

To catch more of mud-hitting action, tune in to Wipeout tonight at 8pm on ABC, as the show features contestants such as a paramedic, a professor, a fire dancer, a retired pilot, a pro surfer and a figure-skating coach.  Obstacles tonight will include Butt Kicker, Big Balls, Topple Towers, Donut Stack Swing, Teeter Totter and Floating Block Maze.

-Valerie Anne del Castillo, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

Source: Baltimore Sun, Dallas News, TV Guide
(Photo courtesy of ABC)