100 Episodes: How MTV’s The Challenge became one of TV’s most riveting workplace dramas

For most of the history of television, the barrier to syndication—and to profitability—has been 100 episodes. The shows that have made it to that mark are an unusual group. Many were big hits. Some found small cult audiences. Still others just hung on as best they could and never posted numbers quite low enough to be canceled. In 100 Episodes, we examine the shows that made it to that number, considering both how they advanced and reflected the medium and what contributed to their popularity. This entry covers MTV’s The Challenge, which started in 1998 and completed its 26th season this year.

MTV’s long-running reality competition The Challenge has earned a reputation for stasis due to the frequency with which the same cohort of Bunim-Murray Productions alumni participates. For 17 years and 26 seasons, reality pioneer Bunim-Murray has been rounding up cast members from its Road …

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