Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Survivor merge and the return of The Challenge make for a big night of reality TV

Illustration for article titled The iSurvivor/i merge and the return of iThe Challenge/i make for a big night of reality TV
Photo: Robert Voets (CBS)

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Wednesday, April 1. All times are Eastern. 

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Top picks

The Challenge: Total Madness (MTV, 8 p.m., 35th-season premiere): As if we needed any more proof that MTV’s The Challenge is now, 35 seasons in, at the top of its game, know this: Total Madness begins with host T.J. Lavin driving a tank through the Czech Republic. “This will be the hardest thing you have ever done,” he tells the gathered contestants, saying they must navigate “a world of constant uncertainty” to win the $1 million prize at the finish line. You’ll see some familiar faces—Johnny Bananas, CT, Nany, Wes, and Cory—and some fresher competitors from the larger Viacom ecosystem, which now floods The Challenge with alums of The Amazing Race, Big Brother, and American Ninja Warrior. As we’ve seen over the last few seasons, the fresh blood has invigorated this MTV flagship with as much genuine athleticism as trashy drama.

As such, The Challenge boasts what’s probably the best combination of athletic competition and soap opera you’re likely to find on TV right now. Feuds and romances between the core cast continue to mutate with each season, while newbies—like Jay and Asaf, this season’s most contentious new cast members—quickly learn whether they can survive one of the most distinctly volatile, emotionally draining dynamics in reality programming. The best part of Total Madness, however, comes via a twist at the end, which essentially changes the game by ensuring that no single competitor can sidestep one-on-one competition. This just amps up what’s already one of the show’s greatest appeals: Seeing who gets chewed up and spit out, and who gets chewed up and digested into the community.
Can you binge it? Seasons 29 and 31 through 34 are available with Sling; otherwise, you’ll need to piece things together from cable providers, other smaller subscription services, MTV.com, and clips on YouTube. Or you could buy episodes and/or seasons through services like Amazon and iTunes, but trust us, it’s The Challenge. You can just go in blind.

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Survivor (CBS, 8 p.m.): Myles McNutt will drop in on the always eventful Merge episode of this “Winners At War” season.

Can you binge it? Great news for anyone who’s been saving all 40 seasons of Survivor for a rainy day—there’s at least some of this show waiting for you on all the major services save for Netflix. Amazon and Hulu each have some seasons, while CBS All Access has all 40. Go nuts.

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Regular coverage

Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu, 3:01 a.m)
Modern Family (ABC, 9 p.m.)

Wild cards

The Magicians (Syfy, 10 p.m., series finale): It’s the end of the road for the Fillory folks.

As the trailer says, “Quests end, but magic is forever.” In this case, if you want to be real cheesy about it, the magic is that which was created by a TV show that was often great, frustrating but fascinating at worst, and included some truly unforgettable performances. Here’s an upside, if you need one: The end of The Magicians means Hale Appleman, Stella Maeve, Arjun Gupta, Summer Bishil, Jade Tailor, and many other terrific performers are that much more available for work (once Hollywood opens up again.)
Can you binge it? Yes, the first four seasons are available through Netflix—and honestly, as long as you’re prepared for a somewhat rocky start, this show is the perfect stuck-at-home binge. Enjoy.

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