The Challenge was one of the best reality TV shows for a long stretch, delivering exactly what the fans wanted.
There were feuds, competitions, romances, and everything else you’d expect from a show where the goal is to win as much money as possible.
While the series has remained on MTV, Paramount Global has been hard at work expanding the franchise for a worldwide audience.
With The Challenge Season 39 (subtitled “Battle for a New Champion”) well underway, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the producers and network are now out of touch with fans who have enjoyed the format for years.
The series features 20+ contestants who have never won a season of the show before.
The move means that the likes of Chris “CT” Tamburello, Jordan Wisely, Laurel Stucky, and Tori Deal were not part of the regular cast, leaving us with many newer faces.
The more seasoned Challenge veterans have returned as mercenaries but haven’t been part of the overall arc.
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It’s made for a very different season of the show, as it’s clear that producers are desperate to have new blood, as many of the fan favorites may be less inclined to return nowadays.
Through seven episodes of The Challenge Season 39, the energy doesn’t match the fast-paced editing, which has seemingly cut out some of the most significant drama, if the cast’s social media accounts are to be believed.
At its prime, The Challenge managed to organically cover the whole gamut of cast members, their interactions, and their quest for power.
These days, cast tensions are being minimized dramatically in the edit, almost as though producers want us to be surprised about what happens at deliberations or eliminations.
It’s not a good look, and it feels like the show is eradicating a part of what made it so appealing.
With The Challenge: USA and The Challenge: World Championship trying to go for a more family-friendly approach, it’s rubbing off on the main series in a way that’s alienating long-time viewers instead of entertaining them.
The biggest issue, though, is in the casting.
The pre-season material initially made it seem like we’d be seeing people like Cara Maria Sorbello, Stucky, Tamburello, and other well-known challengers more than once.
Instead, a mercenary only pops up for an elimination and is then well away from the competition.
It’s a choice, but without that level of familiarity, it feels like we’re watching another spinoff or a full-fledged reboot, and it doesn’t hit the same as that golden era of The Challenge.
Despite appealing to a broader demographic, The Challenge USA Season 2 was a cut above the recent seasons of the MTV series, fueling speculation that The Challenge will end its cable run entirely.
The Challenge: All Stars has been used to bring many challenge veterans back to the show because the filming times are shorter than a regular season.
But the successful Paramount+ spinoff finished filming its fourth season almost a year ago, and it’s been sitting on the bench ever since.
With all the drama surrounding projects being canceled and removed from streaming services, it’s hard not to worry about whether a similar fate awaits All-Stars, which has been the best Challenge content we’ve gotten in years.
Leaving a completed season that long doesn’t instill the hope that we’ll see it any time soon, and more importantly, it will get additional seasons.
The Challenge: World Championship was — for the most part — a dud.
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The Challenge UK and The Challenge Australia didn’t make a big enough impact for either to return, so there’s a good chance The Challenge: World Championship has also been quietly canceled.
It could return with a new format, but there’s no telling what is going on with the overall franchise.
The Challenge: USA wasn’t a big ratings performer for CBS this summer, but it was stable, and the numbers on streaming could have made the case for a renewal.
With The Challenge Season 40 in the cards on MTV, there should be many big names that have made the franchise what it is today.
The only likely scenario is that we’ll be getting a winners-at-war-themed outing to commemorate 40 seasons of the main series.
Sadly, with the producers so out of touch with the fans, I wouldn’t be shocked if they went with another new blood-style season.
The problems began when Paramount Global seemed intent on creating countless shows under The Challenge umbrella.
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If I had it my way, The Challenge and The Challenge: All Stars would be the only ongoing series because the main series now features faces from across the reality TV stratosphere.
Interest The Challenge: Battle for a New Champion is waning as it dangles excellent moments in front of us that are subsequently obliterated in the edit.
With shows like The Traitors and Love Island Games delivering top-tier competitive reality TV, The Challenge runs the risk of extinction, and it’s purely down to the decisions of producers that have turned the show into what it is today: A hollow shell with little redeeming qualities.
What are your thoughts on the current state of The Challenge?
How do you think the issues can be remedied?
Hit the comments.
The Challenge: Battle for a New Champion continues on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on MTV.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on X.