“We just try to keep raising the bar as much as we can and we’re shooting for the stars,” declares executive producer Emer Harkin about the trials, tribulations and joys of working on the latest Iceland-set season of MTV’s reality action series phenomenon “The Challenge,” its most ambitious to date. “We seem to sort of deliver the undeliverable, season after season,” she smiles. “It’s a pretty crazy space that we work in, but it’s pretty amazing!” Watch our exclusive video interview with Harkin above.
“The Challenge” is a ratings powerhouse for MTV, usually featuring alumni from all over TV competing against one another in various extreme challenges to avoid elimination and to win a share of the coveted cash prize. The series is now in its 36th season, premiering well before more recent reality series in the genre. It is reality action on a grand scale, with the latest season dubbed “Double Agents” set in the remote glaciers of Iceland. It was filmed late last year in Iceland amid the pandemic, where then show’s production team took strict precautions to ensure the safety of the cast and crew, who were tested for COVID-19 every three days and were required to undergo quarantine prior to the filming of the season in their impervious “Challenge” production bubble.
The series prides itself as being one of (if not the) most ambitious reality competition programs on television, because of its focus on dramatic season-long narratives and complicated physical, death-defying challenges. Harkin admits that every season begs the inevitable question; how can they continue upping the ante? “It’s a heavy task every season and it’s something that we approach with real sensitivity, as we’ve got a very loyal domestic and global audience. So it’s very hard, you know, to just strike that balance between delivering what the audience wants and what the audience may not even realize they need.”
“So whether it’s from casting to the cinematic look of our show, mixing up the challenges, elevating the format, it’s a very complicated jigsaw puzzle and one that we work tirelessly to really get right. But I think that my focus every season when I start is to really just look back and see what’s working,” she explains. “It’s a joyous process and we’ve got a great cast and crew who are always hungry for more!”
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