|“On your mark…Get set…Go!”
The official green slime network got even messier in 1986, when Nickelodeon first aired the sloppiest game show on television. Double Dare combined the tension of a quiz show with the thrills of an obstacle course, then added heaping helpings of slime, syrup, jelly, eggs and other goo.
The show wasted no time getting to the good stuff. In the opening seconds, host Marc Summers put the two competing teams on their marks, got them set, and off they went, competing in one of the show’s many “physical challenges.” Kid contestants pushed apples with their noses in wheelbarrow races, threw eggs to their partners (who then cracked them on their heads), mummified their partners in toilet paper, or performed one of several other toss-up stunts, racing each other and the clock for control of the game.
After the initial thrills, Marc made the introductions with the help of announcer “Harvey,” who always had a teasing word or two for the show’s host. Helping out with the various sloppy tasks were assistants Robin, Dave and Jamie. The kids themselves played on teams with names like “Ghastly Goobers” and “Stud Muffins,” each with color-coded uniforms and safety helmets (which weren’t just for show).
The team that won the first toss-up controlled its own fate, as Marc explained in the show’s rules. As host, Marc asked the controlling team a question. If they knew it, they could answer it for $10. If not, or if they thought the other team didn’t know it, they could “dare” the other team to answer for double the dollars. The second team could then either answer or “double dare” the first team, again for double the dollars (now up to $40).
Once double dared, the first team had only two options: try to answer the question or take the physical challenge. The latter option earned $40 as well, but the team really had to work for it. Operating under a time limit, they may have had to fill a cup to a red line with sprayed whipped cream (one player held the cup in his or her mouth), catch an egg with a pair of cymbals while blindfolded, catapult pies into the partner’s oversized clown pants, or whatever else the show’s twisted producers had dreamed up.
In the second round, the dollar values doubled, but gameplay remained the same. Once the buzzer sounded to close out the second round, one team was sent home with lovely parting gifts, while the other moved on to Double Dare’s ultra-messy obstacle course. Eight individual challenges, each with its own prize and its own orange flag, were what awaited the lucky team in the show’s finale. If the kids got all the orange flags in under 60 seconds, they went home with the grand prize, usually a trip to Disney World, Space Camp or some other fun-filled family adventure.
The course itself was a sloppy beast. On any given show, the kids might have to tackle the Sundae Slide (racing up a ramp coated with chocolate syrup), the Slime Canal (diving under a bar in a kiddie pool filled with green slime), the Icy Trike (pedaling a tricycle across a slippery surface), Pick It (finding a flag inside a gigantic nose), the 1-Ton Human Hamster Wheel (one partner ran inside the wheel to lower a flag, which the other partner grabbed), and so on.
With its pulse-pounding excitement, high levels of goop and good humor from Marc, Harvey and company, Double Dare was an instant smash. It was the first game show aired on Nickelodeon, but it wouldn’t be the only one for long. Finders Keepers followed in 1987, and Nick has been airing new kid competitions ever since.
In the spring and summer of 1988, the Fox network ran episodes of Family Double Dare in prime time. This new version added mom and dad to the team, and the families were now playing for a new car. The new version only ran three months in prime time, but Family Double Dare moved to Nick in 1990. Meanwhile, the original Double Dare changed its name to Super Sloppy Double Dare, upping the ante of gross games and messy mayhem. In 1991, the double dose of Double Dare ended, and only Family Double Dare remained.
New episodes of Family Double Dare ran until 1993, but the will of the masses (and the messes) could not be denied. Reruns continued to air on Nick for the rest of the decade, and finally, in January of 2000, the all-new Double Dare 2000 unleashed its onslaught of eggs, bananas, chocolate and gak on the Nickelodeon Nation. Jason Harris succeeded Marc Summers as host, and Tiffany Phillips stepped into the announcer’s booth. Only time will tell if this Y2K update can live up to the lofty career of the original, but as long as kids love slime, we’d double dare you to bet against it.