You might not have heard about The Challenge, but it’s something of a pop culture phenomenon over in the States - and is now on its 33rd series.
The Challenge: War of the Worlds, coming soon to MTV UK, sees reality stars from around the world fight their way through gruelling, physical and mental challenges for their share of a $1 million prize.
Brits Stephen Bear, Ashley Cain, Georgia Harrison and Kyle Christie are just some of the reality stars taking part, alongside Americans Johnny 'Bananas' Devenanzio and Nany Gonzalez, and they spoke exclusively to BT TV about what fans can expect.
Here's everything you need to know about The Challenge: War of the Worlds, including when it’s on TV, who’s in it, and why it’s the TV show the UK needs right now.
You can watch The Challenge: War Of The Worlds on MTV (BT channel number 309/371 HD), one of the 60+ premium entertainment channels available for BT TV customers.
When is The Challenge: War Of The Worlds on TV?
The Challenge: War Of The Worlds aired on MTV in the States earlier this year, and UK fans can tune in when the show premieres on Wednesday, April 17 at 9pm on MTV (BT channel number 309 / 371 HD).
There are 15 episodes in total, so the finale episode should air on Wednesday, 24 July.
Where’s it filmed?
The show is filmed in the desert of Swakopmund, on the coast of Namibia in south-western Africa.
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Speaking about the choice of filming location, Nadia van den Heever, a production manager for Namibian service company Namib Film told KFTV.com: “We have the desert with endless dunes, river canyons and next to it the sea.
“[MTV] needed all types of locations for different challenges and we were lucky that they chose Namibia for this reason.”
The show also filmed in Dorob National Park, north of Swakopmund, as the region offered a selection of harsher locations suitable for various physical challenges.
Since launching in 1998, The Challenge has filmed all over the globe, including Thailand, Colombia, Argentina, Panama, Iceland, New Zealand, Mexico and South Africa.
What’s the show about?
The Challenge: War Of The Worlds sees competitors from all around the world battle their way through the most gruelling, physical and mental challenges for their share of a $1 million prize pot.
War of the Worlds is the 33th season of The Challenge, which is one of the biggest competition shows in the US, with an army of loyal fans who have watched from the very beginning.
In this series, TV favourites collide when legendary The Challenge veterans like Johnny Bananas team up with rookie UK challengers from TV shows including Geordie Shore, Ex On The Beach, Celebrity Big Brother and Love Island.
According to MTV, rules will be altered, alliances will be rehashed and surprising twists will arise in the grittiest, most hardcore series ever.
Kyle Christie, who appeared in Geordie Shore from seasons 8-11, before returning for the show’s Big Birthday Battle, has appeared in the previous two seasons of The Challenge: Final Reckoning and Vendettas.
Kyle explained to BT TV exclusively why The Challenge is different to most reality shows.
“Most UK people are used to what the Americans call ‘dating shows’, like Ex On The Beach, Love Island, and Geordie Shore’s also in that category," he said.
“But this is different, this is like a sport, people who don’t just like kick-offs watch it. The people who are on this show are from different walks of life and from different shows, who we fight normally on those shows.
"But, when you get money involved in it, and how intense everything else is, you’re going to fight even more.”
Georgia Harrison, who appeared on the third series of Love Island, says of the show: “It's full of adrenaline, full of ups and downs, love and hate, tears and laughter, and it’s going to be blow the head off the people in the UK, as it already has the people of America.”
Ashley Cain, from MTV’s Ex On The Beach, tells us that the show includes ‘crazy challenges’ that they’d never get the chance to do in real life.
He teases: “You can imagine how much the stakes are raised, you can imagine how much your adrenaline is going, you can imagine the fights, you can imagine the crazy drama that goes on, and surprisingly as well, you can imagine the love and hate relationships that bond.
“It’s a show with every aspect of great TV that you can expect to watch, and I think the British public will love it.”
Who’s in it?
Reality TV favourites from this side of the pond make their mark across the Atlantic, as Georgia Harrison and Theo Campbell (Love Island), Ashley Cain (Ex On The Beach), Stephen Bear (Celebrity Big Brother) and Zahida Allen (Geordie Shore) battle through the dust, sweat and tears to be crowned champion.
As we've mentioned, Geordie Shore’s Kyle Christie returns to the competition as a veteran, as do Johnny ‘Bananas’ Devenanzio and Nany Gonzalez.
Cain, Harrison, Bear, Christie, Bananas and Gonzalez spoke to BT TV about what fans can expect from them on the show, so let's get to know them a little better ahead of the premiere...
“You might know me from being a professional footballer or from Ex On The Beach or Five Star Hotel, and now obviously The Challenge. I’m an animal in every aspect of my life, with impeccable manners, and great family values. The Challenge was intense for me from the get go. It wasn't what I expected."
“You’ll probably recognise me from either Towie or Love Island, and now hopefully The Challenge! I’m bubbly, spiritual and quite naive. I cried about 10 times in The Challenge. I was absolutely petrified from day one!"
“You’ll recognise me from many reality TV shows on various channels - Shipwrecked, Ex On The Beach, Just Tattoo Of Us, Celebrity Big Brother, Celebs Go Dating… [jokes] Crimewatch! Many, many TV shows.
"I was my best on The Challenge, I was classic Stephen Bear. Vintage, gold television. My humour was crazy. I was in stitches because a lot of them didn’t understand my humour. If I know someone’s getting annoyed with me, I’ll carry on, and it’s crazy, but it’s good viewing.”
“You might recognise me from Geordie Shore and other crazy TV stuff, and for getting crazy tattoos. I’m cool, calm and collected until you put $1 million in front of us, and I have to try and rip your head off.”
Johnny ‘Bananas’ Devenanzio
“I’ve been on MTV’s The Challenge now for 19 seasons. I’ve been doing it since 2006, so I’ve been doing it for the last 13 years. As far as The Challenge goes, I’m the king of the ring! I’ve done the most seasons, and I’m the face of the franchise.”
“I’m from MTV’s Real World Las Vegas initially, and I’ve now done seven seasons of The Challenge.”
Johnny describes Nany as “authentic and real” and someone who “wears her emotions on her sleeve, and isn’t afraid to make the same decision twice - or seven times!”
The full starting line-up for The Challenge: War Of The Worlds is listed below.
The international challengers:
Alan Valdez – Telemundo personality
Ashley Cain – Ex on the Beach UK
Chase Mcnary – The Bachelorette
Dee Nguyen – Geordie Shore
Georgia Harrison – Love Island
Gus Smyrnios – Floribama Shore
Joao Paulo Andrade – Ex On The Beach Brazil
Josh Martinez – Big Brother
Julia Nolan – Big Brother
Liz Nolan – Big Brother
Mattie Lynn Breaux – Party Down South
Morgan Willett – Big Brother
Natalie Duran – American Ninja Warrior
Shaleen Sutherland – Bachelor Canada
Stephen Bear – Celebrity Big Brother
Theo Campbell – Love Island
Turabi Camkiran – Survivor Turkey
Zahida Allen – Ex on the Beach
The Challenge veterans:
Amanda Garcia – 5th Challenge
Ashley Mitchell – 4th Challenge
Cara Maria Sorbello – 13th Challenge
CT Tamburello – 15th Challenge
Da’Vonne Rogers – 2nd Challenge
Hunter Barfield – 4th Challenge
Jenna Compono – 7th Challenge
Johnny ‘Bananas’ Devenanzio – 18th Challenge
Kam Williams – 3rd Challenge
Kyle Christie – 3rd Challenge (Geordie Shore)
Leroy Garrett – 10th Challenge
Nany Gonzalez– 6th Challenge
Natalie Negrotti – 3rd Challenge
Paulie Calafiore – 2nd Challenge
Wes Bergmann – 11th Challenge
Zach Nichols – 8th Challenge
Three reasons to watch The Challenge: War Of The Worlds
1. It’s a mash-up of all your favourite reality shows
If you’re still pining over the loss of Big Brother, counting down the days until Love Island and rank I’m A Celebrity among your favourite shows - allow The Challenge to fill that reality TV-shaped void in your life.
The Challenge veteran Johnny ‘Bananas’ Devenanzio explains to BT TV: “The Challenge is basically a cocktail of everything that’s amazing about reality television, so if you were to take Big Brother, Survivor, Fear Factor and Love Island, and put them all in a blender and blend them up, that’s kind of what you get with The Challenge.”
Georgia Harrison reckons it’s the right time for a show like this to hit UK shores. The former Love Island and Towie star tells us: “Since Big Brother has stopped airing and a few things have dwindled, this is what the UK needs. This is going to be the next big thing in the UK.
"Honestly, it’s going to excite people, it’s going to catch people in the first couple of episodes.”
While Ashley Cain credits the unique format of the show for attracting celebrities from all different reality shows. He says: “It’s got your top characters from every show that you love in the UK, from Ex On The Beach to Geordie Shore to Love Island.
“They’re thrown in an environment that’s so intense, that anything could happen. If you like dating shows, and you like competition shows, you’re going to absolutely love this.”
2. There’s a massive $1 million at stake
What would you do with $1 million? That’s equivalent to more than £750,000, by the way…
It’s a staggering, life-changing amount - and an opportunity to win that much does not come around often, especially with UK TV shows.
To put it into perspective, Love Island offers a £50,000 prize pot which is split between the winning couple, and the Britain’s Got Talent winner takes home £250,000.
Former Ex On The Beach star Cain says the “stakes are raised” thanks to the $1 million prize pot, while Kyle Christie says he totally changes when the potential winnings are put in front of him.
Harrison adds: “The biggest difference between this and anything people have seen before is $1 million.
“They would never have watched a show in the UK as intense as this, with characters as big as this, with money on the line as big as this.”
3. You’ve not seen anything like it on TV before
The Challenge is part of American TV culture, so much so that Johnny Bananas in something of a household name across the pond.
He says that the physical challenge component of the show makes it popular with sports enthusiasts.
“In the States, some of our biggest fans are professional athletes, sports writers, ESPN anchors, and celebrities," he told us.
It’s hard to believe how popular it is - remember it’s been airing since 1998! - but Bananas reckons he knows why.
"People love The Challenge because there’s something for everyone in it.
“If you like watching people hook up, and you like watching relationships beginning and ending, if you like that voyeuristic, gossipy kind of reality, there’s that aspect.
“This is the most physically difficult competition that we’ve done, I can’t remember when it’s been this brutal.
“There’s a lot of strategy involved as well, mental games. If you like watching people go from super elated to crumbling, and if you like drama, it’s the perfect show.”
Gonzalez adds: “If you like competitions, if you like the whole game show thing, I think that anybody would love The Challenge. It’s the biggest competition show in the US.”
Christie concludes “I think the public are gonna love it, people in America love it! They look at is as their fifth sport. The UK’s never seen anything like it.”
And as a bonus reason to watch, Bear says: “If you like watching me, I’m on there! If you want a bit of Bear in your life, watch The Challenge. I’m a guilty pleasure I think. You love watching me on the telly man!”
Watch the trailer for The Challenge: War Of The Worlds
The Challenge: War of The Worlds premieres Wednesday, April 17 at 9pm on MTV (BT channel number 309/371 HD).
MTV is one of the extra entertainment channels available for BT TV customers.
Images: MTV / YouTube