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An Oral History of the Double Dare Obstacle Course

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.


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I never saw the show, but the linked article said that the kids would rather win a cool toy than money, and they'd rather run the obstacle course than win. Also, they tended to not follow anyone's advice.
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i watched this all the time as a kid. It frustrated me that the show was built in with a neat, namesake strategy twist option that I *never once* observed contestants to use. The idea of the 'double dare' was that a team confident in its *sole* knowledge of the answer could dare the other team to answer the question, with the result that if the other team could not answer the question and double-dared them back, the original team had two options: to take the "physical challenge" (which they always did), or to answer the question on the rebound for DOUBLE the original cash. I wouldn't be shocked if not a single team ever followed this strategy.
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