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TV Series Review

MXC, short for Most Extreme Challenge, is an import from Japan. Known abroad as Takeshi’s Castle, this game show is an example of what reality TV could be without its mean streak.

Teams of varying sizes encounter a series of obstacles such as swinging on a rope to land on an oversize lily pad in the middle of a pond or running through a maze while chased by “monsters” (pick the wrong door and end up in the drink). In fact, getting muddy or wet is the worst thing that happens to any contestant. No eating maggot soufflé. No grumbling about being stabbed in the back by teammates. Contests bear hyperbolic titles such as “The Rotating Surfboard of Death” (contestants must stay on a moving board while avoiding obstacles), the “Dominoes of Doom” (they run across giant dominoes without tipping them) and “Brass Balls” (they dodge brass-colored volleyballs while crossing a rickety bridge).

Spike TV, which bills itself as the first network for men, has taken this long-running Japanese favorite and added a twist: It leaves the Japanese dialogue but dubs mischievous English over it. That’s where MXC gets dicey. The two Japanese hosts are renamed Vic Romano and Kenny Blankenship, and their casual banter and play-by-play—dominated by bad puns and sheer silliness—often veer into the crass and sexual.

During one challenge contestants must help their teammates scale a slimy wall. A woman struggling to clear the top gets grabbed high on her legs, leading the announcer to crow, “Oh, they’ve got her by the short and curlies!” Gay jokes and other sexual double entendres are the rule.

The American version of the show also glories in mistakes and pratfalls. Producers use what they call “impact replay” to show, over and over, a contestant hitting the mud face-first or plummeting into a pond. They summarize the “Top-10 Most Painful Eliminations” at the end of the show in similar fashion. Some families may not appreciate such pandering, but others will find MXC good for a few belly laughs and good-hearted competition. Those who decide to check it out should turn off the sound to eliminate unnecessary, inappropriate commentary.

Episodes Reviewed: Three each on April 22 and June 7, 2004

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