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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008

Family-friendly 'Wipeout' a goofy ride

By Andy Edelstein
McClatchey-Tribune News Service

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Flaming Killer Surf, Tumble Tubes, Dodgeball Sweeper, Dreadmill Flipper Flop, Wall Swing and Barrel Run are among the over-the-top obstacles included in the new reality show "Wipeout."

ABC Television Network

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ABC's "Wipeout," a goofy reality-competition series, has impressive ratings for its first few Tuesday-night broadcasts and looks as if it might be the summer's breakout hit.

I hate to admit it, but I'm hooked. "Wipeout" has become the first show I've watched together with my kids, 8 and 10, since "American Idol" left the air.

Each week, 24 contestants (ordinary folks, all) compete on an "extreme" obstacle course, including such contraptions as the sucker-punch wall and dreadmill. When (not if) they fail to negotiate an obstacle, they fall off, plunging into muddy water. The last person standing takes home $50,000.

We spoke with executive producer Matt Kunitz.

Q. What's the relationship between "Wipeout" and your previous show, "Fear Factor"?

A. We wanted to create a family show that had all the fun of "Fear Factor" without the grossness. On "Fear Factor," though, we tried to have the contestants achieve a 50 percent success rate. Here, it's more like 10 percent. Viewers don't want to see people succeed.

Q. What constitutes the best wipeout?

A. The simpler the stunt, the better the wipeout will be. The best is when someone hits something, then bounces off or ricochets and falls into the water.

Q. I heard that isn't really mud that the contestants fall into.

A. It's what's called pitcher's mound clay it has a consistency that stays thick all day. When you hit it, it absorbs the impact. It costs $4,000 a truckload and we use two truckloads a day.

Q. What kind of safety precautions do you have?

A. We have a team of medics on site, with ambulances and a water-rescue diver. It's probably overkill. We also have our "black-and-blue" team who test every obstacle. They are literally covered in black-and-blue bruises.

Q. Have any contestants gotten hurt?

A. This is a tough athletic event, so you have the kinds of injuries you'd get in a sporting event, like twisted ankles, bumps and bruises.

Q. Have you tried doing any of the obstacles?

A. No. I'm way too smart for that. I try to avoid them at all costs.