Why The Challenge Australia will “keep you guessing the whole time”

the challenge

Host Brihony Dawson: “It’s like Survivor meets Ninja Warrior meets Big Brother”

MTV’s iconic The Challenge format is landing down under, with 22 sport, reality, and entertainment personalities set to face off in The Challenge Australia.

On the line is $200,000 in prize money and their entry into the first ever The Challenge: Global Championship where they will represent Australia in hopes to be the first ever Challenge World Champion.

Taking the celebrities through it will be host Brihony Dawson, sports commentator, songwriter, and entertainer. Mediaweek spoke to Dawson ahead of the show’s premiere on Monday, 14 November at 7:30 pm on Channel 10 and 10 Play

For those who haven’t seen the original series, Dawson says it can be summed up as a combination of some of the globe’s most popular formats.

It’s like Survivor meets Ninja Warrior meets Big Brother. They all live in that house together, they do these massive challenges. Then there’s eliminations. They’ve got to do all this social stuff – and some people struggle socially in the house, it really affects their game.”

It was an unconventional road to the hosting gig for Dawson, who didn’t send in any showreels, bios, or any of the usual material to be considered for the role. Instead, they were spotted in a case of being in the right place right time.

“Toni from Paramount [Toni Skaife, general manager content business affairs & ATV Melbourne], was a guest at a luncheon that I was emceeing at the MCG. I got a call two weeks later from Stephen Tate, and he was like, ‘we’re looking at you for this show – this is what it’s about, would you be interested?’

“Later on, I was doing a gig at the forum in Melbourne. I got off stage and he was calling me – he goes, ‘pack your bags, we’re going Argentina.’”

the challenge

Arriving in Argentina was a big moment for Dawson and the team.

All the locations that we went to were amazing,” says Dawson. “The city itself, Buenos Aires is just beautiful. There’s so much culture and colour. We’re really lucky that the filming schedule wasn’t too hectic, and I was able to get out on the weekend sometimes and go and explore. 

“The best thing about being there for The Challenge was we got taken to all of these remote places that you are never going to go as a tourist.”

There was work to do before boarding the plane, however. Once they’d secured the role as host, it was time to dive into some research – and there was a lot of material to work with. The original American series has been an MTV staple for years, and is currently on its 38th season.

“I binge watched it for weeks, and I loved it,” says Dawson. “It sucks you in, like every reality TV show does. The size of the challenges and all the different aspects to it, and where all the different people come from – I think is a really unique dynamic.”

Hosting the US series since 2005 has been T. J. Lavin. Whilst Dawson says that they originally tried to take some notes from Lavin, in the end, they really worked to make the role their own. 

“When I went in, there had only been a US version. We’d only ever seen TJ do it – he’s this badass BMX guy, and I’m not a badass BMX guy! I like sport and music theatre, that kind of stuff.

“We spent the first episode working out who I was going to be on screen. We definitely tried to go down a TJ-ish angle, which is like, ‘you’re in my house, these are my rules blah, blah, blah’. I just couldn’t get there. That’s not what I do. I’m more like, ‘we’re doing the fucking Challenge, how cool is this!?’”

the challenge

The celebrities competing on The Challenge come from all walks of life, with makeup artists going head to head with Olympians. You would be forgiven for assuming that competitors from more physical backgrounds would have the upper hand, but Dawson says that isn’t always the case.

“I saw the teams and I was like, these people are going to win – and they don’t! The challenges that are set are the ultimate equalisers, you think that one group are going to win, and this other group comes out of nowhere. You’re like, how did that just happen? 

“It’s seriously anyone’s game. Yes, there are challenges that require strength and physical endurance, but it’s the mental toughness that you need to have. It’s problem solving skills, it’s intelligence and puzzles, that kind of stuff. That’s where some people just got absolutely floored. 

“One of my favourite things about it was that I would walk into these challenges, I’d say to the producers, ‘these guys have got in the bag today,’ and they come fucking last. I’d be like, ‘where were you?’ It’ll keep you guessing the whole time.”

Top Image: Brihony Dawson

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