Reality TV hosts are a dying breed. As new shows pop up every week, hosts have been replaced by disembodied narrators or by celebrities who are just there for star power.
Gone are the days of Reality TV hosts being famous BECAUSE they are hosts. Of course, every host had to start somewhere and they have often had a different, successful career. But rarely had they been household names before they started wrangling 14-30 money-hungry contestants for our enjoyment week after week.
There are many Reality TV hosts who are iconic, who are faces of their medium, and who are impossible to separate from their respective shows. But one stands apart from the pack for his unique attributes that are totally and completely him.
Of course, I am talking about The Challenge’s TJ Lavin.
Why do we love TJ Lavin so much? Let us count the ways…
5. He is Effortlessly Cool
Whether he is strutting into deliberation with his shorts and graphic tees in the older seasons or strolling up on Challenge day wearing a peacoat straight out of James Bond’s wardrobe, TJ has an aura surrounding him that can make anyone stop and listen.
This, of course, is only amplified by the way he carries himself. Sure, the strutting and the strolling is a good look. But you know what really hooks people in? Entering the scene in a show-stopping way.
Sometimes he shows off his BMX skills and enters on a bike, sometimes he revs his engine on a four wheeler, and other times he is dropped off in front of the season’s group of degenerates by helicopter. TJ always knows how to make an entrance.
What sets TJ apart from other reality show hosts is that he does not put on a hosting face. He is himself and it shows. When he had to be the one to tell CT that he was DQed in The Duel, TJ was leaning against the arena guardrail as CT screamed at him. No one has ever looked that cool while being yelled at by CT.
On Spies, Lies, and Allies, TJ was getting so tired of hearing some of the contestants fight in The Lair that he just pulled out his phone and started texting. Who does that?
Can you imagine Jeff Probst texting Mark Burnett, “r u seeing this?” in the middle of tribal council? Of course not! He’s a Gen-Xer! Probst types out y-o-u! Plus, he is too busy handing out fire tokens.
Would Julie Chen be texting Allison Grodner during the live shows? Honestly, probably. If she could. But she struggles enough just reading the teleprompter. We can’t add texting to the mix.
And that’s why TJ Lavin remains so effortlessly cool. He can do stuff like that and not only is it expected, it is celebrated.
As it should be!
4. It’s His Game, We’re Just Watching It
Over the last five years, The Challenge has undergone some big changes. For better and worse. It has become more serious, more dangerous, and more cinematic. One thing that has also changed is TJ Lavin’s role.
“TJ was promoted?,” you may be thinking to yourself. Well, no. Not exactly. But he has taken ownership of this show whether the producers wanted him to or not.
The Challenge is no longer The Challenge. It’s TJ’s Challenge. These players are TJ’s Agents. They are competing in TJ’s Missions. The goal is to end up in TJ’s Final. If you win? Who knows. Maybe TJ will give you the winnings or maybe he will claim that it’s TJ’s Money and you will be out of luck.
Of all the changes in recent years, this is one of the more ridiculous. But it is also one of the most consistently entertaining. No matter how many times TJ tells contestants that they are competing for the right to run “my final,” I laugh every time.
He takes a lot of pride in it too. I am starting to suspect that maybe he really does run this show. Maybe it’s a one-man crew and TJ is hosting, showrunning, producing, and interviewing contestants during confessionals.
You know what? I am going to choose to believe that from now on. MTV should go all in and just rename the show to TJ Lavin’s The Challenge.
3. He is a Fighter
No, I am not referring to the moment with Syrus in The Gauntlet II.
During the offseason between The Challenge: Cutthroat and The Challenge: Rivals, TJ was in an accident. On October 14th, 2010, TJ lost control of his bike while performing a stunt. This lead to him breaking his wrist, several ribs, and an orbital bone.
He was placed into a medically-induced coma due to brain swelling and remained in the hospital for over a month. After the accident, people were not sure of his status. It truly seemed like he could die, as he was considered to be in critical condition.
Luckily, TJ pushed through and came out of the situation healthy.
No one was happier to see TJ than the cast of The Challenge: Rivals. In a moment of genuine humanity, the cast celebrated when they saw TJ walking up to introduce the season. They truly did not know if he would be returning and to see his face was a nice surprise for all.
2. He Has Opinions and He’s Not Afraid to Share Them
Every once in a while Julie Chen will confront evicted Big Brother houseguests about their comments or actions. And sometimes Jeff Probst will throw in his two cents at Tribal Council. But you know who loves giving his opinions? TJ Lavin.
You know who loves hearing his opinions? This guy!
Maybe it is because it’s “his” show or maybe he just can’t bite his tongue. Either way, when TJ speaks up about something, you know it’s going to be good. He often gives competitors the verbal beatdown that so many viewers wish they could give.
Whether someone is quitting the game, bullying somebody, or just plain being annoying, TJ will let them know. And he does not hold back. He will let you have it mercilessly.
But being scolded by one person isn’t that bad, right? If TJ Lavin calling you out doesn’t sting bad enough, he makes sure to do it in front of everyone. He uses the 5th grade teacher trick of making an example out of you so that others do not follow in your footsteps.
Picking one person who has received the most brutal version of TJ’s ire is difficult to pinpoint, so I will just leave you with an instant classic from this season. I present to you, Fessy and Josh acting like children followed by TJ yelling at Fessy and Josh to stop acting like children.
1. His Laughter
TJ Lavin is known for hating quitters. Despises them.
But there is one thing that TJ loves.
It is a simple joy. Not unlike ice cream on a hot summer’s day or finding a dollar in the pocket of a jacket you have not worn in a while. TJ’s version of this comes in the form of contestants getting hurt.
Few things make TJ as happy as watching any one of the thirty contestants on any given season getting hurt in some form or fashion. Watching someone bump their head or fall down is funny enough for anyone. But when it is someone that has been giving you hell for the last three weeks while you are just trying to do your job? I imagine that is a different kind of funny.
His favorite way to see people hurt themselves? Getting the answer wrong during trivia and plunging
to their deaths into the water.
Unfortunately, I could not find a compilation video but watch any given trivia challenge and I am sure that you will find more than one moment of TJ laughing in the face of his victims. I recommend starting with the entirety of the Free Agents trivia challenge, which includes this gem.
Here’s hoping TJ Lavin hosts The Challenge for many, many more years to come!