‘The Challenge’ Is Nothing Without Its True Veterans, Who Should Never Get ‘A Real Job’ [Opinion]


I’m 31-years-old. I’ve been watching the Challenge since it debuted on MTV in 1998. Road Rules: All Stars effectively kicked off one of the most successful reality television programs of all time. In my opinion, it’s the best competition reality series ever. I like to think of myself as a Challenge viewer veteran (CVV).

I’ve stuck with the show through some pretty tough times.

  • The introduction of non-Real World/Road Rules contestants: Fresh Meat
  • The retirement of Mark Long
  • The introduction of Are You the One? contestants
  • Bloodlines

While one of those was a break in my heart, the others were a stab in my back. Who were these people? What are they doing on my show? How will I ever see Mark shirtless again? Side note: thanks, Instagram.

Little did I know at the time, Fresh Meat would give the Challenge franchise some of the greatest players of all time, and some of my personal favorites. FM I and II gave us Diem, Big Easy, Evelyn, Laurel, and Cara Maria.

AYTO and newcomers from Bloodlines did not have the same effect, but that could be because they’re relatively newer in comparison to FM. I still don’t see any of these contestants leaving an impact on the game in the way Fresh Meat-ers did, however. Even newer Real World contestants aren’t resonating with longtime viewers.

There’s something different about these newer cast members. Even if they’ve competed on four to five seasons, they’re still new to us CVVs. We still don’t like them. We don’t watch for them. A Challenge fan who has been there since the beginning isn’t tuning in Tuesday nights for Nelson. I’m sorry dude, but we’re not.

There’s such a loyal following of thirtysomethings who continue to watch for the true veterans. We stopped watching MTV over a decade ago (minus those Jersey Shore years), but still tune in once a week to watch Bananas stir things up. We never watched Teen Wolf, Awkward, or those godforsaken Teen Moms. We certainly don’t watch Are You the One?

CVVs watched Pimp my Ride, Punk’d, Jackass, and TRL when Carson was running the show.

With all this being said, I have to admit it is beyond frustrating to see any veteran attacked on social media. I’m tired of seeing trolls tell Bananas to get a “real job,” or tell Veronica she’s a has-been, or tell any Challenge veteran with children they should be at home instead.

Let me explain something to the trolls.

  1. There’s no such thing as a “real job.”
  2. Veronica is one of the first Challenge members to come back for a second season, making her one of the first veterans ever. She is also the longest-tenured current Challenge member, who began her journey with the series in Season 3 (Challenge 2000). That’s not a has-been.
  3. No one should ever judge someone else’s skills as a parent. Most of these competitors with children are there to earn money to provide a better life for their kids, not to escape from domestic life. So lay off Derrick, C.T., Brad, and Darrell. Especially you Marie, because you’re literally the worst.

Every Tuesday, like clockwork, my 33-year-old husband shouts at the TV, “Man, why can’t I do this for a living?” I’m confused at why that isn’t a sentiment for everyone watching the show. Instead, thousands of trolls tell older generation Challenge members to retire.

Road Rules alliance ???? #TheChallengeVendettas is all new, Tuesday at 9/8c!

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Why would anyone in their right mind walk away from an opportunity like this if they were continually asked back? They get to travel the world for free, hang out with friends, star on a television series, and compete for thousands of dollars. Not too mention all the money they make off-camera from appearances and social media ads.

No thanks MTV, I really need to build up my portfolio and work on some spreadsheets.

Whether you’re a troll or newer Challenge cast member (as in, you’ve done under six to seven Challenges) and you go after these real veterans, go scratch. Pay respect where respect is due.

If Bananas, C.T., Darrell, Shane, Derrick, Brad, Aneesa, Cara Maria, and Veronica all chose to walk away, the ratings would PLUMMET. Us CVVs would quit watching. I’m not going to tune in to see who Cory’s flavor of the season is, or who Nelson is trying to drunkenly fight, or how many jars of peanut butter Nicole throws back.

I’m not sure how many rookies (to us, yes you’re still a rookie even if you’ve been on several seasons) realize how many of us are watching for the vets. I think it’s safe to say half of the viewers are CVVs. If you don’t want them to stick around and continue to make it to finals, beat them.

As far as the trolls who have such disdain for the vets, the show wouldn’t last without them. It would be two years before the Challenge was sitting down in the MTV crypts with Dismissed and Room Raiders wondering what went wrong.

There also needs to be a level of respect for the vets who have built this show up into what it is. If you’re someone like Bananas, who has put his heart and soul into this game for over 11 years and 16 seasons (18 with spin-offs), would you want to leave it in the hands of the current rookie pool? I wouldn’t. This is something he even admitted to in a recent interview with Urban Daddy.

Tony, Cory, Nelson, Hunter, Dario, Britni, Sylvia, Amanda, and Nicole can’t carry this show. It’s just not possible.

Once in a while, MTV does hit the jackpot with a rookie that blossoms and becomes a favorite of the CVVs. Case in point, Jenna, Zach, Tori, and Jordan are all newer in the grand scheme of the show despite participating in a handful of seasons (minus Tori). They’ve all become favorites of CVVs, and a “younger” generation we can root for.

If MTV could build an army of Jennas, Zachs, Toris, and Jordans… I think the older vets wouldn’t mind walking away.

The addition of Big Brother contestants, as well as our MTV friends from across the pond, has been a surprising plus. Natalie, Victor, Joss, and Kyle are wonderful rookies who I think have a solid future on the Challenge, and are better than any AYTO cast member. If MTV can keep that rhythm going, I’m not too worried about the show’s future.

AYTO just turned into a farm for Challenge competitors, the same way people apply to be on The Bachelor and Bachelorette, just to make it to Paradise. Reaching out to other reality series for real competitors is what’s going to keep the Challenge running.

I thank the original veterans for making this show what it is, and I ask the trolls to give it a rest. I’ve been invested in this show for 18 years; that’s something only soap opera fans can say. So stay as long as you can please, and for the love of God, someone convince Kenny and Evan to come back.

Update: I’ve been informed of why Kenny and Evan were not invited back to a Challenge. I do not remember ever hearing anything about this, and I’m shocked. It seems to this day, viewers and cast members are still split on what went down between Kenny, Evan, and a former cast member. In 2016, Bananas defended his friends in an interview with Screener.