'Wipeout' Executive Producer: 'We Are Definitely in Discussions' to Continue Year-Round
ABC’s summer hit "Wipeout” is hot off its best ratings ever. Last Thursday’s premiere of its first winter iteration was up 19 percent compared to its summer premiere in June. And ABC executives are hopeful the show will continue to give the network the ratings lift it needs until the next installment of "Dancing With the Stars" returns this spring. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producer Matt Kunitz (whose unscripted resume also includes NBC’s "Fear Factor") to discuss the warm winter reception and get the latest on his next endeavor: the game show pilot “101 Ways to Leave a Game Show” for ABC.
THR: Did the ratings for winter Wipeout surprise you at all?
Matt Kunitz: I’m not going to say I’m surprised. We were thrilled for sure. Being a summer show, you kind of always wonder well, would we be able to survive in the regular season. I think we definitely proved that we can be a fall season show, a midseason show, a summer show. We’re excited about that. Ultimately what’s really cool about this show and I think this may have helped with the winter ratings, is it’s a family show. In the summer, at 8 o’clock, a lot of the kids are still out playing; it’s still light in most of the country. Now it’s winter and the kids are inside and it’s cold and they’re not out playing and Wipeout is on and it really reflected in the ratings. And those 11-year-olds bring their parents.
THR: Do you see Wipeout continuing on next winter?
Kunitz: We are definitely in discussions. I would like it to stay in the summer but also have a winter presence. I do think it’s a great, fun summer show. For me, it would be great to have two seasons, two cycles per year so there’s a winter cycle and a summer cycle.
THR: Any chance we’ll see summer contestants play in winter and vice versa?
Kunitz: In one of the earlier seasons, we did an all-star episode. The course is so much better when you don’t know what to expect. When you bring these all-stars back that have a preconceived notion of what the course is or how they’re supposed to get through it, it’s not as fun to watch. This is a show about wiping out, ultimately. We don’t bring on uber-athletes; we’re not looking for who can conquer the course; we’re looking for people who can wipeout the best. That’s where the humor comes from.
THR: You also have 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show. What’s going on there?
Kunitz: We shot the pilot in Argentina for ABC. The idea is that it’s a simple game show but if you get one question wrong, we eject you off the set. We have 101 ways to do that. It’s great for me because I’m able to take all my Fear Factor experience and Dog Eat Dog experience and now Wipeout and create all these incredible, crazy ways to eject somebody. We are expecting to hear in the next week or so — we need to hear in the next week or so.
THR: How evil will the ejections be?
Kunitz: We want this to be more funny than evil. Is it going to be more Fear Factor or is it going to be more Wipeout? It’s more Wipeout in the humor of it. I don’t think there’s any evil. If it’s evil that somebody is standing on a dock and their ankles are connected to a rope that goes to a boat and the boat yanks them off, then sure. But to me it’s just fun.