The ever-evolving format of The Challenge keeps its fans coming back for more, season after season. While some reality shows begin to feel stale after a few years on the air, MTV makes sure to keep our favorite one fresh. Sometimes the competitors play as teams, other times as partners, and every once in a while, as individuals.
As if that was not enough to keep things exciting, the themes change also. Sometimes they are partnered up based on their past relationships – romantic and otherwise – as seen in Battle of the Exes and Rivals. They have also been on teams divided by country, as seen in War of the Worlds 2. These clever ways of dividing up the cast adds layers to the gameplay and often, fuel to the fires.
Some formats do not work out as well as they could though. There are some that are outright bad but for the most part, but that’s not what this list is about. This is about the formats that have potential. These are the formats that, in theory, could work really well but for one reason or another did not.
Some people hate the seasons that these formats represent. We think they could work well if given another chance. With just a small tweak here or there, these could bring about all-timer seasons.
These are the Top 5 Challenge Formats With Potential!
*Don’t forget to check out the Top 5 Best Challenge Formats!*
5. Fresh Meat
I am conflicted on whether this one should be included but hear me out.
When the show incorporates “fresh meat,” what it means is that half of the cast is comprised of people who have never been on reality TV.
Let’s take a look at some of the cast members we got from the two Fresh Meat seasons: Evelyn, Kenny, Evan, Diem, Laurel, Cara Maria, and Theresa.
Five of those people are considered some of the best of all time and the other two are also notable for the franchise. Having these newcomers be paired up with vets allows them a chance to learn the ropes, while viewers get to know them.
The problem is, except for a few, viewers don’t REALLY get to know the Fresh Meat on these seasons. If we DO get to know them, so many Fresh Meat rookies never return to the show.
Of the notable ones I mentioned, both Cara Maria and Evelyn were first out. We were just lucky production brought them back. Kenny, Evan, Diem, Laurel, and Theresa all had memorable first seasons but so much of their rookie seasons were overshadowed by the vets. Sometimes in the sense of the vets hogging camera time and sometimes in the sense of the vets controlling their rookie partner’s game.
Additionally, I hate the Exiles on Fresh Meat seasons. While I love the concept of the outcome being hidden from the rest of the house until the winners return, the eliminations themselves are repetitive and just not very exciting to watch.
In the future, Fresh Meat seasons could be fixed by better editing of the rookies and by keeping the hidden elimination element but changing the games – similar to the first half of Invasion of the Champions.
4. The Ruins
Some people hate the idea of Champions vs Challengers type seasons. They often result in the expected outcome: The Champions winning.
The Ruins was no different.
Not only did the Champions team win, but they dominated. Though the Challengers gave them a run for their money in the final, the Champions came out on top. Despite this unsurprising result, The Ruins has potential. Having Champions go against Challengers in every elimination is a good rule to have. Winning the daily challenge only giving you the power to determine the elimination match-up makes the potential for balance greater.
The format is the best way to set up a Champions vs Challengers season. The big thing that brought the original season down but could be fixed is the casting. Naturally, the Champions team was loaded with heavy hitters.
This was back when people like Kenny, Evan, Veronica, Evelyn, Susie, and Derrick were on regularly. And that’s excluding the people that still make appearances like Bananas, Wes, and Darrell. It was an All Star team. The Challengers team had a few solid players in Brad, Diem, Sarah, and KellyAnne. But overall, it was an uninspiring group.
If The Ruins was attempted today, we could have a team consisting of Bananas, Wes, Jordan, CT, Hunter, Kaycee, and Ashley against a team consisting of Nelson, Kam, Fessy, Cory, Devin, Kailah, and Kyle. To be fair, I would still bet on the Champions but it would likely be a much closer season.
Combine that with some big alliances being split up (Fessy/Kaycee, Wes/Devin, Hunter/Nelson/Cory) and we could get a VERY interesting season. With balanced teams, The Ruins has a lot of potential as a Challenge format.
3. Battle of the Bloodlines
Originally being a Survivor fan, I was excited for Battle of the Bloodlines. That show’s version, Blood vs Water, proved to be more than its gimmick by leading to emotional moments, compelling drama, and a new layer of strategy to consider.
The Challenge’s version was far less successful.
On Survivor, splitting the loved ones into two different teams made sense. They have to fend for themselves, compete against each other, and experience the anxiety of not knowing if their loved one survived the vote. On The Challenge, this decision makes less sense.
Seeing them compete against one another is not compelling when alliances are throwing the challenges to keep their loved ones safe. It’s also not entertaining to see fan favorites go home without competing because their Bloodline lost an elimination.
Having the season set up like any other pairs season would be ideal. Have them compete as one, strategize as one, and go into elimination as one. Friction between siblings, cousins, significant others, etc. could be very entertaining.
Even in its original iteration, Bloodlines was at its best when Tony and Shane got into a fistfight or when Jenna and Briana were screaming about Brianna’s dad’s bakery.
The second big change this format needs is casting. No disrespect to some of the original Bloodlines but the fact that only four of them ever returned speaks for itself. A season like this allows the show the opportunity to pull out some random people we have not seen in years because they have interesting Bloodlines. Did we need Aneesa, Cohutta, Camila, Leroy, or Christina and their seemingly-lovely-but-boring-for-TV Bloodlines?
Battle of the Bloodlines has potential as a Challenge format. Fix the casting and keep the Bloodlines in pairs and we could have a far more compelling season.
2. Invasion of the Champions
Can we just mix-and-match aspects of The Ruins and Invasion of the Champions?
Invasion of the Champions is the most recent attempt at Champions vs Challengers. This season began with a bunch of non-winners living on a beach, competing for a spot in The Oasis. The Oasis is the mansion that is customary for Challenge casts to live in.
Once they earned their way to the main house, these Underdogs were joined by a group of Champions to compete against. From there, the cast competed in two big teams. Whittling the Underdogs down to the best players to compete against the Champions was a smart move.
The biggest mistake that this format makes is the Elimination set-up and the final. This season, teammates go against teammates. This means only Underdogs ever go against Underdogs and only Champions ever go against Champions. This made for some epic elimination match-ups on the Champions side but this set-up completely goes against the logic of the season – “You have to beat the best to be the best.”
To make matters worse, based on the format, only two Champions – one man and one woman – were allowed to make the final. It’s a silly rule that should have never been made.
If once the Champions joined the game, it followed the format of The Ruins, this season could have been something great! Make the Underdogs face a Champion in elimination to prove how worthy they are of the crown. And let as many Champions make the final as earn it. If the final consists of six Champions, so be it. We will have one hell of a final Challenge.
Invasion of the Champions is the most recent Challenge format with potential so let’s go ahead and give it another shot.
1. Battle of the Seasons (2012)
I like this format. I like it a lot.
Like The Ruins, the season’s biggest downfall is the cast. Throw in extra dynamics like Team Fresh Meat coming in late, Team Austin being the only kind of Old School team, Team Las Vegas being a mix of two casts, and the plethora of Rookies and you have a recipe for a lopsided season.
More than any other season on this list, the casting negatively affected this format. The game is simple: the winners of the daily challenge become the Power Team. They pick one other team to go into elimination. The losers of the daily challenge will go up against the chosen team in elimination.
What makes this season extra fun is the baggage that each team has. Most of these teams spent months on The Real World together. Some of them hate each other, some of them are exes, and some of them just know how to get underneath each other’s skin. It has the potential for the dynamics that Battle of the Exes/Rivals give us all in one season!
Four person teams? Relationship dynamics spanning years? Losing team in elimination? What more could you want from a Challenge season?
Beyond the casting, the one other big complaint I have for Battle of the Seasons is its lack of new eliminations. Four games were rotated, which gets stale by the end of the season.
This Challenge format has so much potential. I genuinely think if the show attempted a new version of Battle of the Seasons with this same format + evenly balanced teams and new games every elimination round, we could have an all time great season.
What Do You Think?
Which Challenge formats with potential would you like to see return? Did I miss any formats that did not live up to their full potential? Let me know in the comments below!