Season 39 of The Challenge is stirring up quite the buzz, but not all positive. As MTV gears up for the new season, aptly titled The Challenge: Battle for a New Champion, they’re deviating from the usual formula that has brought them massive success over the years.
This fresh approach, sidelining beloved champions from the main competition, has divided the fandom. While change can invigorate, the show’s decision has drawn sharp critiques. The Challenge boss, Emer Harkin, isn’t turning a blind eye to these reactions and is stepping up to address the fiery feedback.
‘The Challenge’ faces backlash over the casting for season 39
For season 39 of The Challenge, fans should anticipate crowning fresh faces as champions. Recently, MTV unveiled its next installment, dubbed The Challenge: Battle for a New Champion, and it’s taking a different direction from previous years.
This time, 24 participants, none of whom have ever tasted victory, will go head-to-head for the coveted title.
While iconic winners like CT Tamburello and Cara Maria Sorbello will appear, it’s only during the elimination rounds. That means some fan favorites will not be vying for the grand prize.
The decision to sideline seasoned champs in the main game is undeniably bold. After all, the series has thrived on its tradition of roping in recurring fan-favorite victors.
Expectedly, this shift did not resonate well with die-hard fans, many of whom expected to see their favorites back in action.
And The Challenge’s head honcho, Harkin, is well aware of the sentiments echoing in the fan base.
Head boss of MTV’s hit reality competition speaks out about the backlash for season 39
Fans of The Challenge eagerly await the reappearance of familiar reality star faces each time a new season airs. Shaking things up for season 39, Harkin shed light on the bold decisions and inherent challenges they’re tackling.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Harkin conveyed that introducing previous champs only during eliminations was an attempt to strike a harmonious chord.
Highlighting The Challenge’s legacy, he acknowledged that fans have emotionally invested in these recurring stars. That said, as a franchise, The Challenge is never one to shy away from innovation or challenges.
“It was the hope that [bringing in the champions for eliminations] will balance things out, but … our show is a long-standing soap opera of beloved characters that we’ve all grown up with and that we love,” Harkin explained. “So having a lesser presence of those characters is always a gamble…”
Harkin added that they wanted to refresh the roster of winners leading up to what promises to be a colossal season 40 next year. He also emphasized the difficulty of pleasing everyone but remains hopeful that their chosen blend will resonate with the audience.
Season 39 of ‘The Challenge’ will still feature past champions – but with a twist
Harkin acknowledged the undeniable significance of seasoned veterans in The Challenge. He revealed that they had countless discussions about integrating these vets into the show meaningfully and equitably.
The intent was to showcase these champion veterans in the revered stature they deserve.
“The Challenge would not be The Challenge without a prominent vet presence,” Harkin shared. “We really wanted to bring them in in a way that presented champion vets in the very honorable light that they should be held. Their presence this time is foreboding and threatening, and it looms large, and has a really cataclysmic impact on the game.”
The series implemented a similar concept in a previous season of The Challenge, though with distinct variations. A decade prior, in Invasion of the Champions, established players joined mid-season, throwing a curveball at the fresh contenders.
This time, however, the distinction between veterans and newcomers remains clear-cut, with vets not actively participating. Harkin emphasized that the goal was to prevent veterans from overshadowing or manipulating the game.
Another significant difference is that now, veterans directly compete with newcomers during eliminations. This move addresses past feedback where vets only squared off amongst themselves, seemingly favoring the rookies.
The Challenge: Battle for a New Champion premieres Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.