An Inside Look at the ‘Double Dare’ Obstacle Course on Its 30th Anniversary

December 17, 2016 5:00 am

In 1977, a cable network called Nickelodeon hit the airwaves. It had a very specific mission: to connect with children. In 1986, they debuted the program Double Dare. It was a gameshow for kids, letting them answer questions and—this was the part everyone liked—perform stunts. It continues to inspire fond memories, to the point that it even returned for a one-night special this year. In honor of its 30th anniversary, Marah Eakins compiled for the A.V. Club an oral history of one of the most beloved parts of the shows: the obstacle course.

Co-creator Geoffrey Darby recalls the Double Dare obstacle course was an attempt to “put a live kid through a Rube Goldberg machine where they would be the pinball in Mouse Trap.” Not that everyone tasked with creating the obstacle course immediately found it appealing. (Fellow co-creator Bob Mittenthal remembers thinking, “That has nothing to do with the rest of the show.”) Still, it quickly became clear it would be a key to the program, and they needed to get it right. Third co-creator Mike Klinghoffer says:

We sat in a room as the show was coming together thinking about obstacle courses. The human hamster wheel, the Wringer, the Sundae Slide, and the tank were probably the immediate ones that we knew we always wanted. We always knew we wanted a tank that we could constantly fill with things.”

Whether you grew up watching or just recall hearing about it, this is the definitive portrait of the show segment that delighted audiences while smelling “like death.” Other great details include how “Nurse Joan” was always on set, but usually only wound up caring for crew members and, at a certain point, they stopped letting kids compete whose parents were attorneys. To read the full article, click here. Take a look at a classic course below.


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