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The Show Wipeout is More Entertaining Than Anything I Have Ever Seen at my Local Public Pool

June 3, 2009

Let’s play a game for a second. You be a big-shot network executive and I’ll be a pitchman. No need to change into other clothes, this is just hypothetical.

So there you sit, in a big leather chair. Possibly smoking a cigar. Maybe you’re trying to quit. I don’t know. That’s your business. However you wish to imagine things. Then I come in and lay this on you:

“It’s an entire show about an obstacle course that takes place on a lake. And everyone falls in the water.”

If you’re the exec, and you leap up and say “I love it!” you are probably an idiot. But you are also, apparently, a genius.

After all, you’re the guy who greenlit Lost. You’re the guy who decided to bring Desperate Housewives to the table. You’re the guy who, for all practical purposes, is bringing thoughtful, riveting entertainment to the American household.

And here I sit before you, with a piece of paper that details my new show:

People slide down slides.

They get punched in the face by a giant wall of boxing gloves.

They try to jump from one giant ball to the other.

And then…they all fall in the water!

I’d expect you to be dumfounded. Let’s face it. The showrunner behind ABC’s Wipeout pulled off perhaps one of the greatest creative boondoggles in television history. The “athletes” on this show aren’t even in great shape. It’s the simplest concept ever. And for some reason, I just can’t get enough of it.

Whenever I find Wipeout on television, I sit stunned with interest. Sure, I could go down to the YMCA and watch people jump into the water all day long. But I can’t go down to the YMCA and see someone get punched in the face by a boxing glove on a stick and jump into the water. And that’s the difference.

The structure of the show is similar to Japan’s Ninja Warrior. A series of competitors take on a series of escalatingly difficult obstacles. But while Ninja Warrior sometimes went for an entire season with no winner (one must be able to complete the last challenge to be victorious), the winner of Wipeout is simply whoever can get the job done in the least amount of time.

And the kicker is that I’m apparently not the only one who loves seeing people covered in mud, falling into a lake. ABC debuted the program last summer to massive ratings. And that was with the Olympics going on, mind you. Real athletes doing actual athletic things. This season’s ’09 premiere of Wipeout has already destroyed Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance. It’s a valid hit.

Perhaps it’s a hit because it just looks like fun. Remember fun? It’s what we all used to have before the news told us that we were all going to lose our homes and die of the swine flu. It’s what used to be a part of our lives before the world became a place so scary and uncomfortable that you never know if the guy sitting next to you’s going to crack and pull out a handgun. It’s something that used to happen before even televised singing competitions became tense sources of household arguments.

I say kudos, ABC. Because in a time where every network is trying to find the next great, giant, mindblowing hit, your network is tapping into something a little more base in all of us — the simple and inexplicable joy of a good pool party. I can’t wait to see what you do with “taco night” or “horseshoes.” It’ll be simple. It’ll be mindless. But I’ll be damned if I probably won’t watch.

One Comment
  1. Craig Weaver permalink
    June 4, 2009 12:43 am

    Oh Mr. Tomlin, we all know what you do on “Taco Night”…you eat an absurd amount of tacos.

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