"Wipeout" Is One, But ABC's Other New Competition Series Is Better Than Expected

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It wasn’t at all surprising that ABC’s Wipeout, which premiered last night, was as horrible, repugnant and mean-spirited as the network’s promos had made it seem.  What was surprising is that the other new show paired with that disaster, I Survived a Japanese Game Show, actually was kind of enjoyable.

Wipeout is so awful, it’s the sort of show you hope will have the decency to just slink away quietly – except there’s nothing decent about it. Contestants are there to be made fun of, doused, pummeled and otherwise emotionally and physically battered. The hosts, meanwhile, adopt an attitude of smug superiority, astoundingly unaware that no host of Wipeout has any reason to feel superior to any living being.

I Survived a Japanese Game Show, though, has a more benign spirit, and even though ABC’s promos did the show no favors, it’s actually the sort of reality show you can watch without feeling queasy afterward.  This, I know, puts it in the minority when considering the whole Wife Swap-Supernanny lineup. But culturally and comically, Japanese Game Show seems to be enjoying itself, and inviting viewers to enjoy themselves, too.  Even the contestants smile, which never happens on Wipeout.

Viewers of fringe cable shows, on Spike, G4 and elsewhere, already have sampled some of the outrageous physical stunts and visual absurdities that typify this particular genre of competition game show in Japan. It’s possible that this initial episode of Japanese Game Show was just being coy and polite, and that it soon will sink into the murky, muddy depths from which Wipeout has emerged.  First impressions, though, were shockingly somewhat positive for I Survived – and even more negative than expected for Wipeout.

Before those shows aired, I wouldn’t have thought either of those reactions was even remotely possible.

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