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I Double Dare You to Be Physically Active

This may come as a shock to most of my fellow Americans--not to mention 11-year-old me--but I have gone without cable for almost a decade now.

The main reason for this (aside from cost) is that I live in the city. Thus, my preferred modes of entertainment tend to be of the live variety (stand-up comedy, music, people yelling at inanimate objects on the subway, etc.). The very basic TV channel lineup, my healthy DVD collection, and Netflix is more than enough to satisfy my limited time in front of the TV.

When I visit my parents in the boring suburbs, however, things are different. Since they make their home in an area where the most thrilling occurrence is a traffic light malfunction, they naturally have a decent cable package.

On one recent visit, I was flipping through their 9754 different channels, trying to find something worth watching. I stopped on Nickelodeon (well, on ONE of the Nickelodeons; I think there's something like 14 of them today) to see what became of the children's programming network that kept me glued to the TV during my pre-adolescence.

I think what I happened on was a program called iCarly, which features characters and situations that you can actually interact with online once the latest episode has concluded. iCarly is a marvel in technology and the strong degree of connectivity between viewer and content, no doubt, but to me it is just plain sad. And not only because I'm old enough to have given birth to most of the program's main cast.

Back when *I* watched Nickelodeon, the programming made us kids want to do far more than simply interacting with a tablet or computer. One particular show made us want to actually engage in strenuous physical activity, no matter how ridiculous it was.

The program?

Granted, there were TONS of programs like Double Dare back in the day (hell, Double Dare ITSELF spawned several spin-off series)...offerings like What Would You Do, Guts, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Wild & Crazy Kids, etc. And all of them made us want to go out, climb stuff, dive into large piles of food, you name it.

But Double Dare came first.

Unlike other game shows, the contestants weren't uncomfortable-looking people in ugly 80s formal wear who were our parents' age. Instead, they were kids just like us (except with possibly better-connected, or at least pushy theatrical, parents)! Even though its host, the charismatic Marc Summers, was technically an adult, he came off as a very fun and interesting adult. Things kicked off with trivia questions, which was all well and good, but we knew what we wanted. We wanted creative, colorful action!

And Double Dare delivered in spades.

Contestants did everything from fish around in giant pizzas for the elusive orange flag to race across giant tanks of water on rickety devices that would capsize in a puddle. This was known as the "physical challenge" and was worth many hundreds of dollars in prize money if successfully accomplished.

At the conclusion of each episode, the contestants with the most money got to compete for an array of prizes in the always-thrilling, 60-second-long obstacle course. This involved all kinds of creatively crazy activities that most of us never got to do (sadly, even in the booming 80s economy, playgrounds were still devoid of giant slides made of pie ingredients).

But one obstacle stood above them all: the One-Ton Human Hamster Wheel.

The existence of this meant that there was a clinically insane Double Dare producer out there staring at his pet hamster going nowhere fast in his wheel and saying to himself, "We need one of these big enough for kids."

Regardless of the fact that it kind of made a mockery of human decency, we ALL wanted to try out this thing. It was always the last obstacle of the course, which meant that getting the flag got you the grand prize, which was anything from a brand new Nintendo set to a trip to Space Camp.

Years later, I had the unique opportunity of meeting Marc Summers himself. While he is mainly known for his work on the Food Network these days, I of course went into full fanboy mode for his hosting duties on Double Dare. I even made a crude orange flag and asked him to sign it. 

Summers, who is honestly one of the nicest guys on the planet, obliged and scribbled:

"Mike, take the physical challenge! Marc Summers"

After doing so, he handed the flag back to me and said, "Congratulations, now you can go to Space Camp."

See? He still didn't want me to sit motionless in front of a computer.
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Fulton4V Posted on Jul 21, 2014 at 06:04 PM

I was always watching that show. My parents would watch it along with me and we would really get into it. Mark Summers is the best host.

pikachulover Posted on Jul 17, 2014 at 07:54 AM

Double Dare is one of the few shows I can marathon binge watch online. I just sit there and watch it for hours.

I liked when they would take jabs at Fun House. I liked both shows.

It's cool that you got to meet Marc.

Vaporman87 Posted on Jul 16, 2014 at 03:56 PM

That's awesome Mike. I've watched Summers perform on Food Network over the years, and he does exceptional work wherever he goes.

I also learned of his battle with OCD, and could sympathize with him as I too was diagnosed with it.

Double Dare was just one of those shows that truly went from just another game show to legendary status. The production quality of the show was always top notch, and Summers himself made it worth the watch. Not to mention it was great for kids to have a game show of their own that really did well in the ratings.

Great article Mike. Thanks for this.

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