There are times, very rare times, when a television show or film provides a breathless, rapid machine-gun fire volley of low brow jokes and sexual double entendres so artfully piled on, and so skillfully delivered, that the suspect material becomes almost poetic. Add to this poetry of filth and degradation endless shots of crazed Japanese smashing their way through large-scale obstacle courses while fracturing their noggins and severing their junk, and you have art. Still one of the funniest, most clever shows on TV, Spike TV's MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge works itself into a fever pitch of rapid-fire scatological and perversion jokes, while highlighting some of the "painful eliminations" of Japanese game show contestants, to create a show so dizzyingly daffy and hysterical that you frequently have to back up the episodes three and four times to really believe what you just saw and heard.
The premise is surprisingly simple. In 1986, Tokyo Broadcasting System premiered Takeshi's Castle, a comedy game show that pitted contestants against increasingly difficult physical challenges in an effort to storm the castle and win a million yen. But unlike American game shows, the physical challenges of Takeshi's Castle would never have made it past the legal departments of the major networks. People got seriously hurt competing on the show, and the wild and wooly challenges often provided horrific-looking close calls for the contestants who failed them.
Enter American wise-asses. Paul Abeyta, executive producer and head writer for MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge and TV producer Peter Kaikko came across the bizarre footage of Takeshi's Castle. Pitching the show to Spike TV in 2001, Takeshi's Castle had now become MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, where the original Japanese footage was chopped up, edited, and dubbed in with hilarious sex, body functions, and pain jokes. Executive produced by Larry Strawther and written by Christopher Darga, John Cervenka, Roy Jenkins, Victor Wilson, Mary Scheer, Herb Goss, and CeCe Pleasants, MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge quickly became a cult must for TV junkies who had never seen anything like it before on American TV.
The contestants of the original Takeshi's Castle were now formed, through the magic of editing, into two rival teams, such as the Cable TV Workers vs. White House Employees. Pitted against each other in death-match style, Kenny Blankenship (Christopher Darga) and Vic Romano (Victor Wilson) provide breathless color commentary on the events. Dufus Kenny, who's main interests are chicks and porn, is offset by Vic, a world-weary, wiser dufus with a dark past -- who's also mainly interested in chicks and porn ("Right you are, Ken"). Covering the events down on the field is reporter Guy LeDouche (John Cervenka), a perverted little twisto who obsesses over the most vile bodily functions while ogling the women (and men) who perform on the show. The master of ceremonies is the handsome Captain Tenneal (John Cervnka), who begins each episode down on the field by insulting and baiting the contestants, before giving his rousing rallying cry, "Let's get it on!"
The field obstacle courses in Takeshi's Castle have been renamed, of course, for MXC, so now the non-existent teams battle each other on such heinous courses as Dirty Muddy Balls, Rotating Surfboard of Death, Circle Jerkers, Sinkers and Floaters, Brass Balls, and my particular favorite, the Log Drop (you get the idea from those titles of the level of humor here). As the contestants barely manage to stay in one piece as they maneuver through these deadly obstacles (which frequently end up with the contestant falling into a slimy, mud-filled pond -- known as "the fluid" on MXC), Kenny and Vic provide a frequently filthy running commentary on their activities, with some hilarious made-up names for the various positions the contestants find themselves in ("She's going into a 'Kneeling Street Begger' and uh oh! She falls right into a 'Defrocked Priest' and right into the sludge!"). Mary Scheer provides the voices for all the women contestants, and she's particularly adept at providing hilarious, hysterical screams as the female contestants smash into mud. At the end of each episode, Kenny provides a recap of the events, which he calls his "Most Painful Eliminations of the Day." Clips of the worst crashes are repeated, sometimes over and over again, backed up and reversed, and played again and again, so we can enjoy the horrific knocks and bumps.
MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge is primal stuff here. First, the very nature of the original footage is fascinating, particularly when you realize that these people are coming very close to permanently injuring themselves just to be on TV. The slapstick nature of their sometimes scary crashes are worthwhile on their own. But the brilliant writing of MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge carries the Takeshi's Castle footage into an even higher (or is it lower?) level of perversity and humor, and makes for one of the funniest shows on TV. If your comedy tastes run to wild noggin' bashing, spine splintering, kidney bustin' slapstick, along with scatological, perverse sexual double entendres (which would encompass most guys, I would assume), then MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge: Season Two is your dream show.
Here are the 13, one-half hour episodes of the two disc box set, MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge: Season Two, as described on its tri-fold slipcase:
Food Service vs. Hobbyists
Original airdate: 7/31/03
People with Hobbies take on The Food Service Industry. It's arts & crafts vs. tarts & hash.
GAMES: Sinkers and Floaters, Saddle Sores, Wallbangers, and Log Drop.
Hi-Tech vs. Civil Service
Original airdate: 8/07/03
Hi-Tech computer nerds take on Government Civil Servants. It's a bombastic brawl pitting brilliance vs. bureaucracy, MXC-style
GAMES: Dope on a Rope, Circle Jerkers, Swamp Gassers, and Brass Balls.
Cable TV Workers vs. White House Employees
Original airdate: 8/04/03
White House Employees battle the Cable Television Industry in a classic confrontation of counter-intelligence vs. counter programming.
GAMES: Rotating Surfboard of Death, Door Jam, Mine Games, and Tumbling Dominoes of Doom.
Reality TV vs. Animal Lovers
Original airdate: 8/21/03
It's people who make Reality TV vs. Animal Specialists. It's a tumultuous tussle of the unscripted vs. the untamed.
GAMES: Window Pain, Dash to Death, Loogie Launch, Endangering Species, and Log Drop.
Toy & Games vs. Office Workers
Original airdate: 8/27/03
It's Office Workers vs. the people who make Games and Toys in a contentious clash of boardroomers vs. board gamers!
GAMES: Holes of Glory, Skidmarkers, Log Drop, and Chum in the Mouth.
Beauty Pageants vs. Military Personnel
Original airdate: 9/11/03
The Military Defense Workers take on the Beauty Pageant Industry. It's a battle royale of bombs vs. bombshells!
GAMES: Sinkers and Floaters, Turtle Hurdlers Crossing the Poo-Tomac, Pole Riders, and Boulder Dash.
Entrepreneurs vs. Hotel Staff
Original airdate: 9/18/03
Entrepreneurs take on The Hotel Industry. It's a dynamic dispute of the resourceful vs. the resorts crew.
GAMES: Dirty Muddy Balls, Saddle Sores, Staff Infectors, and Rotating Surfboard of Death.
Original airdate: 9/25/03
It's former Olympic Athletes as team USA takes on the World. It's worldwide warfare when jocks take on schlocks.
GAMES: Sinkers and Floaters, Dope on a Rope, Dash to Death, and Log Drop.
Entertainment Media vs. Unions
Original airdate: 10/02/03
America's Guild members take on the Entertainment Media in a classic contest of the trade unions vs. the trade papers.
GAMES: Window Pain, Irritable Bowl Syndrome, Muddy Runs, and Tumbling Dominoes of Doom.
Wedding Industry vs. Trucking Industry
Original airdate: 10/09/03
The Wedding Industry takes on the Trucking Industry in a high-energy highlight reel between those getting hitched and those hitching up.
GAMES: Mudd Butlers, Tour de Grand Prix, Brass Balls, and Nut Baggers.
Financial Industry vs. Alcohol Industry
Original airdate: 10/16/03
The Financial Industry takes on the Alcohol Industry. It's the latest in the ongoing rivalry between Wall Street and Bourbon Street.
GAMES: Rotating Surfboard of Death, Eat Shitake, Pole Riders, and Log Drop.
Real Monsters vs. Commercial Mascots (aka: The Monster Show) Highlights
Original airdate: 10/16/03
Our special "monster" edition of "MXC." Real Monsters take on Commerical Mascots. It's the ultimate challenge between mad science and Madison Ave. (Episode 12 has been edited from the broadcast version).
GAMES: Sinkers and Floaters, Intestinal Fortitude, and Dry Balls.
Fast Food vs. Aerospace (aka: The Winter Show)
Original airdate: 10/30/03
The Fast Food Industry takes on the Aerospace Industry in a feisty, frigid fracas of take-out vs. take-off!
GAMES: Sno' Man's Land, Frozen Wallbangers, Sperm Wheelers, and Frigid Slop of Icy Death.
The full frame video image for MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge: Season Two looks great, especially considering the source materials. Colors are bright and sharp. Just a note here: episode 12 is marked as "edited," on the box and at the beginning of the episode. Why it's been edited is anybody's guess, and that kind of post-broadcast tampering would usually get an automatic "skip it" from me. But since MXC is all about editing anyway, and it's just the one episode, I'm going to let it slide.
The Dolby Digital English 2.0 stereo audio mix is fine, but I'd like to see this show remastered in 5.1. One of the funniest aspects of MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge: Season Two are the screams and growlings and grunts from the contestants when they smash into some immoveable object. But often times, the levels are so low for these sound effects, especially with the music blaring, that they get lost in the mix. Let's hope somebody corrects this in the next season.
There's an original episode of Takeshi's Castle, number 61, included on the first disc. Having never seen the original Japanese version, I was a little leery watching it, but it turned out to be quite funny on its own. I particularly like the original "Vic" and "Kenny" (as they'll always be known to me), who seem witty and mocking on their own, with no need of help from the MXC boys. Frankly, I'd love to see a DVD with just the original show, as well. On disc two, there's Kenny Blankenship's Top 25 Most Painful Eliminations of the Season, which is just a recap of what you already saw on the individual episodes. And finally, there's a short behind-the-scenes featurette on how the show is produced. Now you can match up the faces with the voices, as well as see what an obviously limited budget the creators of the show are working with (it looks like it's made in somebody's garage).
MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge: Season Two is pure poetry -- if you like your poetry filled with sexual perversion, scatological humor, and death and pain jokes. The writing, as low brow and brilliant as you can get, is so skillfully designed to the images, so feverishly presented, and so perfectly performed by the voice cast, that it achieves an almost transcendent beauty of filth. MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge: Season Two is one of the funniest shows now running on TV, and I highly recommend it.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.