A beautiful winter tableau: a snowman; Fido in his snow-covered doghouse; a helpless contestant getting her vertebrae rearranged by a trap door.
We, Ben and Erin, have a problem:
We cannot stop watching “Winter Wipeout.”
For three weeks now, we have been unable to tear ourselves away from the television between eight and nine o’clock on Thursday evenings. What’s more, we sometimes have watched reruns when they appear two nights later at eight o’clock.
Do you recall the “Seinfeld” episode (“The Abstinence”) when George gives up sex, and by doing so frees up space in his brain to learn Portugese and give Derek Jeter batting tips? There could be great things we’ll never accomplish because, for at least an hour a week, we are transfixed by the sight of helpless contestants flying, falling, flailing and flopping while the Johns (Anderson, the straight man, of “SportsCenter” fame, and Henson, the clown, a former “Talk Soup” host) dish out snark and telestrate things like a cartoon beaver smacking a contestant down off the Yule Log Jam. (We were amazed to learn, upon visiting ABC’s site, that it titles each show; last night’s episode, which featured the cartoon beaver, was titled, “Don’t Fear The Beaver.”)
What is the appeal of “Winter Wipeout” for us?
- By Thursday night, our brains are pretty shot. Your brain is not needed to enjoy this show.
- The contestants are loons. They have six toes and talk like Gollum and go on and on about oatmeal. And no matter how much pain and humiliation they are in for, all of them dance and jump like idiots at the start line.
- The Snowtivator/Red Balls combo. Without fail, the contestant starts running, hits the Snowtivator, is startled by the fact it is moving, stops, gathers him/herself, then picks up running again … only to go boing! off one of the first two giant red balls before landing in the water. Very rarely you’ll see a contestant somehow ricochet along and glance off the third red ball. Never before have we seen anyone cross the entire obstacle. It’s guaranteed defeat.
- It reminds Ben — fondly — of a cross between “Double Dare” and “American Gladiators,” shows which he did not miss a single episode of between 1986-1989 and 1990-1992, respectively.
- It is a gentle send-up of the hypercommentary of “SportsCenter.” In this case, the “athletes” are not deserving of faint worship but rather subtle mockery. Not only can’t they dunk a basketball; they can’t even run across an obstacle without getting pummeled by the same trap door three different times. They are hamsters who cannot stop spinning the wheel. But they also, at select moments, appear to be having fun, and we have found ourselves wondering, “What would it be like to be shot out of the Bobsled Blastoff at 35 miles per hour into ice cold water”?
- Did we mention by Thursday night our brains are pretty shot?
Luke Dempsey said of the show, “Given that I’m no fan of many of the constituent elements of this TV show—diarrhea, swimming, and piercing visions of painful human contortion are three that spring to mind—how is that when 8 p.m. Thursday comes around, I herd myself in front of the TV like a sheep just desperate to be shorn of all intellect and taste?” We know exactly what you mean, Luke … although we ourselves feel no shame about the fact we embrace diarrhea, swimming and piercing visions of painful human contortions. Maybe not all the time. But for an hour a week, yes.