‘Wipeout’ Returns ‘Bigger, Bolder, Edgier’ — and Funnier, Thanks to Its New Hosts
Wipeout creator and executive producer Matt Kunitz is back with more of that wacky obstacle course, last seen in 2014, only “bigger and bolder and edgier,” he promises. And don’t worry — that includes the iconic big red balls.
“Everything else is new,” he tells TV Insider of the show that premiered in 2008. “For the viewer, we want it to be fresh. They might see elements that are familiar, but the way that we’re using those elements will be unique.”
The hosts are also new — John Cena and Nicole Byer, with Camille Kostek on the field — and that “serious A-list talent changes the whole feel of the show,” Kunitz says. “We’re living vicariously through their eyes as viewers. It’s brought a completely different comedic tone to the show.”
Perhaps the biggest changes over the years has to do with changing technologies, says Kunitz. “GoPro cameras didn’t really exist,” Kunitz reminds us. “To have a POV [point-of-view] camera — and one that would work underwater — we were looking at these medical-grade cameras that were not used for filming television shows.”
Now, they’re putting GoPro 360s on the contestants as they run the course. “You can take that footage on your phone in an app and manipulate the footage so if somebody is running across the Big Balls and then they wipe out and fall in the water, you can then have a 360-degree view of that and follow the contestant down into the water,” he explains. They’re also using high-tech drones to follow every contestant in every run.
Speaking of the contestants, they did aim for “a slightly more athletic cast” — the goal is to have someone successfully complete the course every show — but it was about finding the right balance between athleticism and humor. “If you go too far athletic, then you get Ninja Warrior, which is not designed to be funny,” Kunitz says. “You watch Ninja because you want to see extreme feats of athletic prowess. That’s not why you tune into Wipeout. You tune in to see people wipe out.”
It’s bringing that comedy and “the idea of slipping on a banana peel” that the show has always had, says Kunitz, but there’s a new “vicarious thrill” to the course as well with the POV cameras. “[Viewers] feel like they might be running that obstacle course. They’re at home, ‘I can do that,’ and screaming at the TV. Some of the new viewers are going to be pleasantly surprised by how immersive the show is.”
And safety of course, he adds, remains the show’s top concern. It’s something clearly on Kunitz’s mind, after a contestant died of a heart attack after running the course this past November when shooting for the reboot. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family,” the EP says. “It was a tragic incident. Safety is, as it’s always been, a top concern for us and safety is constantly evolving from season to season as the course changes. Safety will continue to be a number one priority on Wipeout as we move on from season to season.”
As for the show’s timing, it couldn’t be more perfect, Kunitz says: “When Wipeout first came out in 2008, it came out right after a big recession. At that time, people were really looking for some light-hearted relief. Wipeout was this big, fun, silly show that the family could watch together and you didn’t have to worry about all the stresses of life.
“We’re in a very similar situation with the country just coming out of a year of COVID and families are stuck at home,” he continues. “They’re looking for other forms of entertainment. The things families would normally do together have changed dramatically.”
Wipeout, Premiere, Thursday, April 1, 9/8c, TBS