About a year ago, a couple of readers commented on my RELEVANT magazine summer television viewing recommendations asking why I had left out ABC’s Wipeout. I’m not going to lie: At first I dismissed the show as mindless television viewing at its best (which it is) and couldn’t imagine ever writing about it. But since the day that comment was posted, I’ve been thinking about it, trying to rise to the writing challenge that is Wipeout. Just like many of the show’s contestants, I have bounced off the idea in every conceivable direction, unsure of how to approach Wipeout, and written a dozen other columns in the meantime.
At this point, I have commented in detail on many of your television favorites and drawn some serious life lessons from most of them. I have dragged you through my thoughts on American Idol, Bones, Parenthood, Rookie Blue and on and on the list goes—which you may love or love to hate. I have given the past two columns to offerings from USA Network (Burn Notice and Covert Affairs) in the firm belief that USA has all but cornered the market on great summer television. And I’ve told all my readers the truths about life—that we don’t always get what we want and the reasons why we don’t. That’s heavy, right? I have even written a serious column about NBC’s Parks and Recreation—I’m almost ashamed of that achievement. Was that weird for anyone else?
So maybe I owe you a little lightness. I think it’s safe to say we could all use just the sort of break that Wipeout offers.
This week, I watched my first episode of Wipeout ever. Here’s something I never thought I would say (especially in writing): I won’t promise it will be my last. I found it perversely entertaining. There was something therapeutic about watching each contestant try and try and try again—and fall and fall again—in their efforts to conquer the various obstacles. Is it wrong that I enjoyed each emphatic splash of failure immensely? If it is, that’s really unfortunate. I’m not sure I can help it.
As I watched, I kept smiling and thinking, “I’ve had weeks like that.” Metaphorically speaking, I’ve taken a few steps only to find the ground falling away and myself flying through the air. I’ve been knocked to the ground and knocked when I’m down. I have missed the target and had to face starting over again (although not usually while covered in paint). I have bounced off course many times, even with sarcastic narration (“D’oh! That’s going to leave a mark!”).
Wipeout contestants demonstrate that success is not about never bouncing off course. Everyone bounces off at one time or another. Instead, success in this reality TV challenge and in life is defined by how quickly a person bounces back, determined to move forward. Maybe the straightforward visual representation of this principle is why I liked my first episode of Wipeout—but I don’t think that’s it at all.
All that’s left are these three: flail, thud and splash. My favorite of these is splash.