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Spike TV's "Most Extreme Elimination Challenge" is found in translation.


Spike TV, the result of TNN getting testosterone therapy, has already made its mark on the lowbrow end of American TV with the Pam Anderson-voiced superhero cartoon "Stripperella," the reality TV fake-out "Joe Schmo," "Horsepower TV" and reruns of perennial man's man "MacGyver." Now the channel has brought to the table a version of a popular late-'80s Japanese game show known as "Takeshi's Castle" in the East.

Here, the names are changed, the commentary and dialogue dubbed in English with no regard for the original script. The general point of the original show is tossed out in favor of something that glorifies scatology in narration and violence in vision and weirdness in concept.

Though the original idea has been dubbed to oblivion, it had its own logic. The Japanese version featured contestants competing in various challenges to be either eliminated or recruited for a 100-person "army" to ultimately storm a castle. The Takeshi under siege was TV and film comedian Takeshi Kitano. "Count" Takeshi fended off the contestants, regular Japanese folks trying to win cash and prizes. The castle fell, and it happened all over again next time.

Almost none of that survives the translation. The show stars John Cervenka, Christopher Darga, Mary Scheer and Victor Wilson as the voices for the revamped characters, tossing out Takeshi and replacing him with the likes of "Vic Romano," "Kenny Blankenship," "Captain Tenneal" and "Guy LeDouche." The Americanized show features two teams per episode: What, in Japan, were eager contestants become, in the mouths of our ESPN-caliber commentators, teams of Meat Handlers and Cartoon Voice Actors, Inventors and Ex-Child Actors, Adult Entertainers and Home Improvers, even Former Olympians.

With contestants scrambling up fake mountains with fake boulders falling on them, crossing a pond on fake rocks that suddenly give way, leaping from one giant rolling log to another (and often falling through to the mud below) or dropping from a suspended mushroom onto a platform, the one thing that survives the brutality of the translation is: the brutality.

The commentary is nonstop riffing on the twin pillars of poop and wee-wee, delivered with such speed and volume that the vulgarity hardly registers. Against a backdrop of people running obstacle courses with huge foam feet, though, Kenny and Vic could say just about anything. Whatever it finally is, it is absurdly and unrepentantly funny. S

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