The Challenge (TV series)

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The Challenge
GenreReality game show
Created byMary-Ellis Bunim
Jonathan Murray
Presented byT. J. Lavin (2005-present)
Starring(Season-specific) the winners of a given season
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons25
Running time

30 minutes (1998-2007);

1 hour (2008-present)
Production company(s)Bunim/Murray Productions
Original channelMTV
Original runJune 1, 1998 – present
Preceded byThe Real World
Road Rules
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For the upcoming 26th season, see The Challenge: Battle of the Exes II.
The Challenge
GenreReality game show
Created byMary-Ellis Bunim
Jonathan Murray
Presented byT. J. Lavin (2005-present)
Starring(Season-specific) the winners of a given season
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons25
Running time

30 minutes (1998-2007);

1 hour (2008-present)
Production company(s)Bunim/Murray Productions
Original channelMTV
Original runJune 1, 1998 – present
Preceded byThe Real World
Road Rules

The Challenge (originally known as Road Rules: All Stars, followed by Real World/Road Rules Challenge) is a reality game show on MTV that is spun off from and mostly cast-contestant dependent on the network's two flagship reality shows, The Real World and the now cancelled Road Rules.[1] The Challenge is hosted by T. J. Lavin.

The series premiered on June 1, 1998. The title of the show was originally Road Rules: All Stars before it was renamed Real World/Road Rules Challenge by the show's 2nd season, then later abridged to simply The Challenge by the show's 19th season. The series initially used no hosts but instead a former cast member who had been kicked off his or her season, providing assignments as "Mr." or "Ms. Big" (David "Puck" Rainey, David Edwards, and Gladys Sanabria served this role). Later on, however, the series began using hosts: Eric Nies and Mark Long co-hosted a season, and Jonny Moseley and Dave Mirra hosted various seasons before T. J. Lavin became the show's regular host by the 11th season.

Since the 4th season, each season has supplied the show with a unique subtitle, such as "Rivals." Each season consists of a format and theme whereby the subtitle is derived. Of each season's format and theme, 7 have been repeated or revamped through sequel seasons with shared subtitles. In chronological order, these include: Battle of the Sexes (tied to Battle of the Sexes II, the show's first sequel season); The Inferno (tied to The Inferno II and The Inferno III, the show's first trilogy); The Gauntlet (tied to The Gauntlet II and The Gauntlet III); The Duel (tied to The Duel II); Fresh Meat (tied to Fresh Meat II); Battle of the Seasons (tied to the second Battle of the Seasons); and Rivals (tied to Rivals II).

The 25th and most recent season, Free Agents, premiered on April 10, 2014, and concluded on June 26, 2014.[2] An upcoming 26th season, entitled Battle of the Exes II, is expected to premiere in early-2015.[3]



The Challenge casts are season specific as the cast varies from season to season. The casts can only be made up of A.) contestants originating from one of The Challenge's related TV programs or B.) contestants originating from one of the few Challenge seasons that have allowed previously unknown contestants. These shows and seasons are: The Challenge's two precursor programs, The Real World and Road Rules; The Challenge's spin-off television program, Spring Break Challenge; and The Challenge's own Fresh Meat seasons (only the seasons Fresh Meat, and Fresh Meat II have introduced new cast members that have never before appeared on The Real World, Road Rules, or Spring Break Challenge). Many of the seasons differ in terms of which of the six aforementioned series they've obtained contestants from. For example, some seasons have obtained contestants from different seasons of solely The Real World and Road Rules; some seasons have obtained contestants from different seasons of solely The Real World; some seasons have obtained contestants from all the above; etc.

A season's typical multitude of cast members are usually divided up into separate teams according to a certain criteria, which varies from season to season. The criteria that teams have been arranged by over the show's history have ranged all across the board, from gender of the contestants and original show of contestants to bad guy/good guy status of contestants and ex-romantic partners of contestants. Each of the opposing teams compete in numerous missions in order to win prizes and advance in the overall game. Following each mission, a team or a cast member is voted into an elimination round to take on the least successful team from the previous mission. In elimination rounds, they must compete against one another to determine which one is eliminated from the season. Each season has its own, very distinct elimination round, distinguished from those of other seasons in title, design, and general atmosphere. Determining which two teams or two cast members are sent into the episode's elimination round frequently leads to drama and contestants playing the game dirty; this is due to the show's contestants being in charge of who is thrown into elimination rounds.[4] Like that of The Real World, sporadically throughout the course of each episode, various contestants are seen privately expressing themselves through reality TV confessionals about the events taking place on the show.

Some seasons, however, have used entirely different formats from the typical: The Island is one Challenge in particular that adopted many features atypical to Real World/Road Rules Challenge, instead taking concepts like that of another reality television game show Survivor; as another example, the first season (Road Rules: All Stars) ironically only included contestants from The Real World and consisted of a much smaller cast before the show was completely reconstructed by its second season. Except for season one, a monetary prize has always been the award for winning the final mission.

Theme and format by season title[edit]

Each distinct season title has indicated the general gameplay format used:

For more details, see the articles for each individual season.

TV show's conception[edit]

During the filming of The Real World: Boston and Road Rules: Islands, the two casts met while the Real World cast was vacationing in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Producers set up a face-off where both teams would compete for a cash prize. The intensely competitive challenge brought in high ratings and this set ideas in motion to produce yet another spin-off series. After another face-off called AquaGames, hosted by Kit Hoover and Mark Long, between The Real World: Seattle and Road Rules: Down Under in 1997, a year followed until 1998, when the Challenge series was born with Road Rules: All Stars, and featured cast members from five different seasons of The Real World.

After All Stars, producers decided to include former castmembers of Road Rules in the series as well. In the next season, two six-member teams were sent around the world in a competition to see which show could best the other in head-to-head competition. The series followed the format for three years and brought in hugely successful ratings.

Following the hugely successful boom of reality television in the new millennium, producers decided to add new elements to the series. In 2001, production began on Battle of the Seasons. This season, the first to depart from the previous six-member structure, brought in a large group of former cast members to compete in one location. During the filming of this season, it was heavily rumored that the Challenge would borrow heavily from the hugely popular reality television show, Survivor. Cast members were "voted off the island" and for a short time during production, it was rumored that the cast was sleeping outside in tents. (This later proved to be false as the cast stayed in a five-star resort.)

Beginning with the first Battle of the Seasons, MTV added a fantasy challenge game to their website. Players "draft" cast members, a la fantasy baseball and cast members are given points for performing certain tasks, such as cursing or "hooking up."

After switching to the "vote off" format, the series would alternate between "Battle" seasons, including two seasons of Battle of the Sexes and themed Challenges which included the Gauntlet and Inferno seasons. Both the Gauntlet and Inferno seasons contained "showdown" matches between members of the two opposing teams. The cast member who lost the showdown would be sent home. The Gauntlet seasons featured an intra-cast dynamic as teams were forced to vote off cast members within their own groups into the showdown, while the Inferno seasons featured an inter-cast dynamic as teams were forced to vote off cast members from the other group into the showdown.

In 2005, Bunim-Murray Productions decided to invite new people to the Challenges who were never a part of either Real World or Road Rules and called them 'Fresh Meat'. This decision was forced, in part, because of the status of Road Rules at the time. While Road Rules had stopped production until further notice after its thirteenth season, Real World had just finished wrapping its sixteenth season in Austin, Texas. Road Rules had a fourteenth, and final, season in 2007. One additional 'Fresh Meat' season has followed with cast also being integrated in The Challenge from the 2010 Spring Break Challenge miniseries.

External episodes[edit]

While internal episodes are the usual and feature an original mission, voting process, elimination round, and surrounding social lives between the season's contestants, external episodes feature the season's contestants reviewing themselves in internal episodes and adding feedback. This is typically combined with video clips from the internal episodes in question. The Challenge has three types of these external episodes, one of which takes place in the form of a series throughout the entire season (The After Show) and two of which take place once the internal episodes have all aired and winners have all been named (The Reunion Special and The Sh#!t They Should Have Shown).

Reunion Episodes[edit]

Like its precursor The Real World, a custom of The Challenge is ending each season with a reunion episode. Typically rearranged in airing order with The S#!t They Should Have Shown, reunions have been broadcast as the show's penultimate episode on some seasons, while on others, its season finale episode. This episode consists of all the winners of that season—along with the season's most controversial competitors, who were just short of winning—all seated before a small audience on a sofa. Across from them is usually a popular MTV host or Challenge-related personality conducting the session. The host interrogates each of the competitors on the most controversial choices they made over the season, leaving the Challenge members to give their reasoning behind those choices. The Reunion focuses on notable situations that took place, clearing up of any misconceptions, heated discussions, revealing of juicy moments that weren't shown on television, generally getting everything out in the open (such as backstabbing, gossip, and conspiracies unknown to certain Challenge members), and follow-up on cast members' current status to update on any new developments from the season. Coordinating The Challenge with its precursor The Real World, MTV typically alternates between airing seasons of The Real World and The Challenge. In this manner, a preview of the upcoming Real World season typically ends out each Challenge season's Reunion Special episode.[5]

Returns as Reunion host
  • After a seven-year-long absence from The Challenge, WWE superstar Mike "The Miz" Mizanin returned to the reality game show on April 4, 2012, as host of the 22nd season reunion. Before returning, Mizanin had not appeared since the show's 10th season.[6]
  • After a seven-year-long absence from The Challenge, Jonny Moseley returned in the show's 23rd season on December 19, 2012, as host of that season's reunion. Moseley had preceded T. J. Lavin as one of the show's earlier sporadic hosts. The last season hosted by Moseley was the show's 9th season.[7]

The S#!t They Should Have Shown Episode[edit]

Like its precursor The Real World, a custom of The Challenge is ending each season with an hour-long episode entitled The S#!t They Should Have Shown. Rearranged in airing order with The Reunion Special, The S#!t They Should Have Shown has broadcast as the show's penultimate episode on some seasons, while on others, its season finale episode. The episode consists of portions of the season removed in the editing process and not included in the show's final, publicly released version. The deleted scenes are usually embarrassing and humiliating to the cast members as they capture them in foolish, gross, bizarre, raunchy, secret, unscrupulous, or wacky circumstances. Through private confessionals, reactions and feedback are provided from the cast members central to the incident being subjected to public exposure. In these private confessionals, the cast members in question often attempt to redeem themselves. Also, private confessionals of cast members loosely involved in the incident are included. These cast members often express derision and ridicule at the cast mates central to the incident.[8]

The After Show Episodes[edit]

See also: The After Show

Following each internal episode of The Challenge is an external episode known as The After Show. In these episodes, topical contestants in the most recent internal episode explain their feelings, opinions, and reasons behind the role they played on that episode. Often, The After Show has featured two or more contestants who were all central in the series of events from the internal episode. Unlike The Reunion Special which only allows the season's last surviving contestants to have a say on matters that transpired over the season, The After Show is open to all the season's contestants; contestants who don't make it to the end are offered a platform from which to explain themselves and have a say. Given The After Show's focus on a specific episode as opposed to the full season like The Reunion Special, The After Show is able to expand on certain issues that The Reunion Special cannot. Further, unlike The Reunion Special or The S#!t They Should Have Shown, The After Show is an episode series as opposed to one episode. The After Show episodes are typically shown directly after internal episodes, usually on the show's website and sometimes television.

The Challenge lingo[edit]

Veterans and rookies[edit]

Two commonly used terms on the show are "veterans" (or vets) and "rookies." Veterans are particularly thought of as players that have won at least one Challenge season, but the term has also been applied to players who have appeared on several seasons of the show, or have appeared in the final stages of a challenge. Rookies are thought of as players that have done none of the above. The most vulnerable rookies are those who have just recently completed their season on The Real World or Road Rules and are participating in the game for their very first time; often they are the first to be singled out and targeted by everyone else and end up being unsuccessful overall in the game. This has changed, however, in recent Challenge seasons, most recently, Heather Cooke, Jordan Wiseley & Marlon Williams (Rivals II) and Johnny Reilly (Free Agents) making it to the final challenge.


Another commonly used term on the show is "alliance." The term is used to refer to challengers working together in cahoots. These contestants have colluded together so as to increase their overall chances of winning the season game. But for safety in numbers offered by the collusion, the show's contestants would run the risk of victimization to the game's politics and popularity factors. Politics plays a role due to the show's formats in which options of who is thrown into elimination rounds and other determining factors are left up to challengers themselves. Alliances are typically formed through pacts and negotiations made among certain contestants early on in the game. Alliance operations can range from saving alliance members, throwing missions for the purposes of advancing the alliance, picking and choosing based upon alliance involvement as opposed to levels of performance, etc.

In early seasons of the show, alliances were heavily frowned upon by most of the contestants. As such, alliances used to be carried out with much more secrecy, craft, and deviousness. In fact, many of the earliest alliances on the show were formed to sabotage members of one's own team who were perceived as weak, such as in the Inferno when Veronica Portillo schemed together an alliance to rid her team of Katie Doyle, culminating in an altercation between the two. Once exposed, alliances typically came as offensive and shocking to those uninvolved. Since the later seasons, however, alliances have become a norm among the show's contestants, so much so that most contestants are expected to join an alliance upon beginning out a season. Despite its use among most, there are still a minority of contestants who elect to play the game straightforwardly, feeling as though alliance tactics are a sign of weakness and a lack of competitive ability. Those who reject alliances, however, are seen as not playing the game strategically. Although the widespread and overt practice of alliance construction has expelled its original devious reputation, its effectiveness and capacity to surprise attack has waned.

Drawbacks of an alliance include: treachery among alliance members, turning their backs on each other; conflicts among an alliance's many members unable to agree on what moves to take in the game, often causing the alliance to "self-destruct"; once the alliance has made it to the end, resolving who to target within the alliance; etc.

Kenny Santucci, Evan Starkman, and Johnny Devenanzio in particular are all seasoned veterans on the program, known in particular for their involvement in alliances as they've had a tendency to run and manipulate them with success.

As an example, one season with notable use of alliances occurred on Fresh Meat II. During this season, there were two alliances of six teams each, both formed by the second episode. Each of these alliances were led by arch rivals Kenny and Wes:
Kenny's AllianceWes' Alliance
Kenny & LaurelWes & Mandi
Paula & JeffEvelyn & Luke
Sarah & VinnyLandon & Carley
Jillian & PeterDanny & Sandy
Ryan & TheresaCJ & Sydney
Jenn & NoorKatelynn & Brandon
Even though at times these alliances altered slightly, Kenny's alliance would ultimately vanquish most of Wes' alliance overwhelmingly. Landon & Carley would go on to win and beat all of Kenny's remaining alliance mates.

Original contestants[edit]

Although the vast majority of the show's participants originally appeared on either The Real World or Road Rules, The Challenge itself has introduced original participants. Numerous cast members have made their first appearances on The Challenge, all of whom debuted on either: Fresh Meat, Fresh Meat II, or Cutthroat.

Spring Break Challenge[edit]

In March 2010, prior to the airing of the 19th season, MTV aired a special spring break spin-off of The Challenge in Acapulco, Mexico.[9] Challenge alum coached teams of college-aged friends in various challenges of old and new, while Fresh Meat alumnus Evan Starkman and The Real World: Key West alumna Paula Meronek served as broadcasters, with T. J. Lavin as the host. Camila Nakagawa, a contestant of the winning team, went on to appear on future challenges, with her debut Challenge being Cutthroat.


OrderTitleYear airedLocation of the residenceWinners
1All Stars1998Road trip: MontrealLake PlacidWellington
AucklandLos Angeles
Cynthia, Eric N., Jon, Rachel C. and Sean
2Real World vs. Road Rules1999Road trip: San Francisco→Los Angeles
Las Vegas→Los Angeles
Road Rules
(Anne, Kalle, Kefla, Mark, Noah and Roni)
3Challenge 20002000Road trip: Las Vegas→NashvilleMiamiRoad Rules
(Dan S., Holly, Los, Piggy, Veronica and Yes)
4Extreme Challenge2001Road trip: Portland, Maine→Montreal→Boston
New York City→Los Angeles
Real World
(Dan R., Jamie M., Julie S., Kameelah, Rebecca and Syrus)
5Battle of the Seasons2002Cabo San Lucas, MexicoReal World
(Mike M. & Coral, Sean & Elka, Danny R. & Kelley)
6Battle of the Sexes2003Montego Bay, JamaicaGuys
(Mark, Colin, Jamie M.)
7The Gauntlet2003–2004Telluride, ColoradoRoad Rules
(Adam L., Cara, Dave, Darrell, Rachel R., Roni, Sarah G., Theo V., and Veronica)
8The Inferno2004Acapulco, MexicoRoad Rules
(Abram, Christena, Darrell, Holly, Katie, Kendal, Timmy and Veronica)
9Battle of the Sexes 22004–2005Santa Fe, New MexicoGuys
(Dan S., Eric N., Theo V.)
10The Inferno II2005Manzanillo, MexicoGood Guys
(Darrell, Jamie C., Landon and Mike M.)
11The Gauntlet 22005–2006Tobago, Trinidad and TobagoRookies
(Alton, Ibis, Jamie M., Jodi, Kina, Landon, MJ, Randy and Susie)
12Fresh Meat2006Myocum, AustraliaDarrell & Aviv
13The Duel2006–2007Armação dos Búzios, BrazilWes
14The Inferno 32007Somerset West, South AfricaBad Asses
(Abram, Derrick, Evelyn, Janelle, Kenny and Tonya)
15The Gauntlet III2008Puerto Vallarta, MexicoRookies
(Frank R., Jillian, Johanna, Nehemiah, Rachel M. and Tori)
16The Island2008Colón Island, PanamaRed Boat
(Derrick, Evelyn, Kenny, and Johnny "Bananas")
17The Duel II2009Queenstown, New ZealandRachel R.
18The Ruins2009Phuket, ThailandChampions
(Derrick, Evan, Johnny "Bananas," Kenny and Susie)
19Fresh Meat II2010Whistler, British Columbia, CanadaLandon & Carley
20Cutthroat2010Prague, Czech RepublicRed Team
(Brad, Dunbar, Tori and Tyler)
21Rivals2011Dominical, Costa RicaBuenos AiresBariloche, ArgentinaEvelyn & Paula
Johnny "Bananas" & Tyler
22Battle of the Exes2012Sosúa, Dominican RepublicReykjavík, IcelandJohnny "Bananas" & Camila
23Battle of the Seasons2012Bodrum, TurkeySwakopmund, NamibiaTeam San Diego
(Ashley, Frank S., Sam and Zach)
24Rivals II2013Phuket, ThailandCT & Wes
Emily & Paula
25Free Agents2014Punta del Este, UruguayPucón, ChileJohnny "Bananas"
26Battle of the Exes II[10][3]2015Panama[11]

5 Timers Club[edit]

Cast Members[edit]

Players with the most Final Challenge Prize Money[edit]

Note: This list includes players who have won a minimum of $100,000, and is updated as of Free Agents.
PlaceCast memberOriginal seasonChallenge wins/# of ChallengesTotal money made
1Johnny "Bananas" DevenanzioRW: Key West5/10$409,043
2Wes BergmannRW: Austin2/8$248,000
3Darrell TaylorRR: Campus Crawl4/6$240,555
4Kenny SantucciFresh Meat3/8$236,293
5Laurel StuckyFresh Meat II1/4$201,000
6Landon LueckRW: Philadelphia3/4$184,166
7Jodi WeathertonRR: X-Treme2/3$176,666
8Derrick KosinskiRR: X-Treme3/9$176,293
9Evelyn SmithFresh Meat3/7$167,000
10Evan StarkmanFresh Meat2/6$151,293
11Chris "CT" TamburelloRW: Paris1/10$136,500
12Rachel RobinsonRR: Campus Crawl2/7$135,555
13Paula MeronekRW: Key West2/10$126,000
14Aviv MelmedFresh Meat1/1$125,000
15Susie MeisterRR: Down Under2/4$106,840
16Mike MizaninRW: Back to New York2/5$104,500
17Emily SchrommRW: DC1/3$104,000
18Abram BoiseRR: South Pacific2/8$102,500
19Carley JohnsonFresh Meat II1/1$100,000

Challenge records[edit]

FeatMale Cast MembersRecordFemale Cast MembersRecord
Most Season AppearancesChris "CT" Tamburello11[a]Aneesa Ferreira10
Johnny "Bananas" DevenanzioPaula Meronek
Most Consecutive SeasonsDerrick Kosinski6Cara Maria Sorbello7
Sarah Rice
Most Seasons Between ChallengesAlton Williams8Trishelle Canatella14
Longest Span of SeasonsMark Long21Aneesa Ferreira20
Most Seasons WonJohnny "Bananas" Devenanzio5Evelyn Smith3
Veronica Portillo
Most Appearances in a FinalJohnny "Bananas" Devenanzio7Paula Meronek5
Kenny Santucci
Most Seasons in Challenge History
Without Being Sent Home
Dan Setzler3Laurel Stucky4
Jamie MurraySusie Meister
Most Elimination Rounds
in a Single Season
Derrick Kosinski5Casey Cooper5
Wes BergmannSarah Greyson
Most Consecutive Eliminations in a Single SeasonWes Bergmann4Casey Cooper4
Most Elimination Wins in Challenge HistoryWes Bergmann11Cara Maria Sorbello9
Most Elimination Rounds in Challenge HistoryWes Bergmann15Aneesa Ferreira14
Most Consecutive Elimination Wins in Challenge HistoryWes Bergmann8Laurel Stucky8
Most Finals Without Going into an Elimination RoundChris "CT" Tamburello4Rachel Robinson3
  1. ^ Updated as of Battle of the Exes II. All other feats are updated as of Free Agents.


The Challenge has been shot in many different countries around the world, as well as some taking place in the United States.
During seasons 1, 4, 21, 22, 23 and 25, the cast traveled between several different countries.

Continent/RegionLocations (Season number)
AfricaSouth Africa (14), Namibia (23)
AsiaThailand (18, 24), Turkey (23)
CaribbeanJamaica (6), Trinidad and Tobago (11), Dominican Republic (22)
Central AmericaPanama (16, 26), Costa Rica (21)
EuropeUnited Kingdom (4), Germany (4), Czech Republic (4, 20), Iceland (22)
North AmericaCanada (1, 4 & 19), United States (1, 2, 3, 4, 7 & 9), Mexico (5, 8, 10 & 15)
OceaniaNew Zealand (1 & 17), Australia (12)
South AmericaBrazil (13), Argentina (21), Uruguay (25), Chile (25)


External links[edit]