If you were a kid any time between 1986 and 1993, chances are you watched the Nickelodeon game show Double Dare. Thirty years on, those viewers look back fondly at the show, and its most popular segment, the obstacle course. The producers resisted the idea at first, because an obstacle course didn't have anything to do with the game they conceived. But logic doesn't have to be the overriding principle of a children's game, so with more imagination than funds, they went to work.
John Harvey, Double Dare announcer: I remember each time we’d come back [to the set] it would be almost like a little kid at Christmas, because it would be like, “Oh, my god, what has Byron Taylor cooked up this time? What has he invented?”
Somebody was just asking me today about the gumball machine, and I said, “It was enormous. It was so high that it almost grazed the light grid overhead.” And they asked, “Why would they build it that big?” And I said, “Because they could.” Nickelodeon, god bless them, in those days, they were either just complete loonies or they had no idea that you needed to control these maniacs, but they really gave us a lot of creative freedom.
The obstacle course was popular because of the mess. The production used tons of feathers, whipped cream, pudding, Jell-O, ketchup, and baked beans. Each idea had its own problems, but together they created more.
Marc Summers, Double Dare host: The first day it smelled good, and by day four it smelled like an old high school cafeteria…
At the end of season one, we’d done 65 episodes or something, and you figure, “Well, hell. We’ll never do this again. We’ll get canceled.” Well, we got picked up, but they didn’t clean that blue, shiny floor particularly well. So when they unrolled it, anybody who touched that floor broke out in the most disgusting blisters. It was like everybody had leprosy. It was the most bizarre thing in the world. Anybody who touched anything on that floor who then touched their face would break out in horrible stuff.
Read the history of Double Dare's unique obstacle course from the viewpoint of the show's creators at The A.V. Club.