Airing on the Spike television network since 2003, "MXC" has come to be something of a cult show for all ages over the last three years. It's a wild, unpredictable comedy program, combining elements of sports and bodily damage to create one of basic cable's more engaging shows, constantly alternating between cheers and guffaws every week, and never, ever disappointing.
The premise is simple: commentators Vic Romano and Kenny Blankenship oversee a Japanese game show that has contestants sprinting through a series of outlandish obstacle courses, each one more intricate and bizarre than the last. They fight for victory, but mostly they fall on their face, much to the delight of Romano and Blankenship.
As its more vocal opponents will remind you ad nauseam, "MXC" simply recycles footage from Takeshi Kitano's wildly popular "Takeshi's Castle" Japanese television game show that ran from 1986 to 1989. "MXC" cuts and pastes the footage from "Castle" to suit their own needs, inventing "teams" to compete (such as Dairy Workers Vs. Automobile Workers), shortening the games, and dubbing over the whole thing with their own roster of Groundlings-trained cast members in the style of Woody Allen's "What's Up, Tiger Lily?"
"MXC" certainly doesn't share the same sillyheart spirit as "Castle," but it's a fun sit due to the rapid-fire joke delivery mixing with the pure lunacy of the game show elements. With contests like "Log Drop" (unfortunate souls try to cross a series of rolling logs), "Boulder Dash" (suckers sprint uphill while styrofoam rocks are rolled down), and my personal favorite, "Sinkers and Floaters" (contestants race across a muddy lagoon covered with rocks; some are bolted to the floor, others are merely floating), laughs and the jaw-dropping horror over some of the more painful contestant eliminations are never in short supply.
1. Meat Handlers vs. Cartoon Voice Actors Games: Sinkers and Floaters, Log Drop, Wall Buggers, and Boulder Dash
2. Donors vs. Addicts Games: Mud Buttlers, Dash to Death, Rotating Surfboard of Death, Brass Balls, and Pole Riders
3. Dairy Workers vs. Automobile Workers (aka Cows vs. Cars) Games: Wall Bangers, Get Hard!, Saddle Sores, Swish Bucklers, and the Teetering Temple of Crippling Doom
4. Cops vs. Cons Games: Dope on a Rope, Prison Break, Hand Job, Bunk Buddies, Legal Maze, and Yakin' It
5. The Couples Show Games: Plank Spankers, Romantic Rotating Surfboard of Death, Hot Steaming Bowl of Love, The Sticky Stuff of Love, and Brass Balls of Love
6. Inventors vs. Ex-Child Actors Games: Get Over It, Sinkers and Floaters, Door Jam, Le Tour De Grand Prix, and Log Drop
7. College Girls Games: Wall of Hidden Blistering Death, Blind-Sided Date, Sinker and Floaters, Ball Busters, and Log Drop
8. Outdoorsmen vs. Educators Games: Door Slammer. Sinkers and Floaters, Wall of Mame, Pole Riders, and Log Drop
9. Circus vs. Airlines Games: Slippery Slope of Slanted Death, Foul Balls, Little Man in the Boat, Corn Holders, and Mudballs
10. Physical Fitness vs. Music Industry Games: Turtle Gut Check, Mounting the Spike, Clear Sphere of Fear, and Jerk and Release
11. Fashion vs. Religion Games: Yankers Away, The Poisonous Horny Toad, Shroom Zoom, and Runaway Stump
12. Adult Entertainment vs. Home Improvement (aka Porn vs. Construction) Games: Rotating Surfboard of Death, Dash to Death, Dope on a Rope, and Elimination Idol
(This episode is considered by the production team to be the best of the season.)
13. Gaming Industry vs. Medical Professionals Games: Sack Lunch, Boulder Dash, Tight Enders, and Brass Balls
13 episodes of "MXC" are presented in their original full screen television format. If you consider the horrifically low budget given to the show, the image looks terrific, with big crisp colors and a considerable clean-up of the "Takeshi's Castle" source material. Remember though, the show had little in the way of money and production time, so any image limitations (of which there are few) have been there since 2003.
The show is presented in a standard Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. This DVD won't challenge your speakers, but the sound design (completely invented in the studio, using none of the original "Castle" elements) is clean, blending hyperactive voice work with onscreen mayhem satisfyingly. For a low tech, basic cable comedy show, the DVD sounds just fine.
Included on three episodes are audio commentaries from the actors and producers that make up the "MXC" team. While informal, the tracks do reveal a bit of the working process that goes into each of these episodes; it isn't just sitting in a recording booth and dubbing lines, that's for sure. We also learn about the original 8-minute pitch reel made for "MXC" in 2001 for network shopping, the sexual proclivities of correspondent Guy LeDouche, and some tantalizing comments are dropped about the infamous "Almost Live" episode of "MXC" taped at Universal Orlando in 2004.
To appease the faithful, Magnolia has included a single episode of "Takeshi's Castle" (#93). Offering the option of either English subtitles or some English narration to help explain what we're seeing, "Castle" is 45 minutes of straight-up Japanese madness, akin to the spirit of "Hee Haw" and Benny Hill (but with more face plants). The original show isn't nearly as fast paced or go-for-broke zany as "MXC," but "Castle" puts the whole Takeshi world into proper context and is an absolute treat to see. For those that stand firm to the idea that "MXC" is a complete and utter bastardization of "Castle," Magnolia has provided the proof.
On disc two is the Original Presentation reel for "MXC," from November 2001. This 8-minute reel was used to sell the program to Spike, and features an extremely rough version of what we know as the show today.
Also on disc two is a short feature called "Kenny's Blankenship's Most Painful Eliminations of the Season." Slapped together for this DVD, it provides an overview of the more bone-snapping falls of the season.
"MXC" is goofy and perhaps disrespectful to the original creation; however, at the heart of it all is a tirelessly funny television show. The 13 episodes on display here show the birth of a wonderful program to come, and one that would go on for three more seasons (a fifth starts this month). I hope Magnolia Home Entertainment doesn't stop exploring its DVD potential.
Always remember: "Don't. Get. Eliminated!"