When you consider the best crazy kid game shows of the '90s and '80s, it's hard not to immediately think about Double Dare. Combining trivia, physical challenges, and over-the-top obstacles and hosted by the affable Marc Summers, it was must-watch TV for many kids. But while you may remember the show through a nostalgic, joyful haze, the truth behind Nickelodeon's Double Dare show is much stranger than you might think. Stories of what it was like to compete on Double Dare reveal a smelly, sloppy mess.
One of the weirdest Nickelodeon shows to ever air on the network, but also one of its most popular, Double Dare took the traditional game show format to new zany heights. Whether that be by making its competitors jump into various liquid mixtures to find tiny cloth flags, or running on human hamster wheels, Double Dare never failed to deliver a crazy time for viewers at home. For its contestants, though, things were more complicated.
Double Dare's set is pretty memorable, particularly its bright blue linoleum floor. But that floor was also responsible for making everyone on the crew want to throw up and leave the room.
According to announcer John Harvey, the quick way the floor was cleaned after each episode eventually resulted in the set having a truly horrifying smell most of the time:
"They eventually used a hard rubber flooring material, like linoleum. It was a continuous piece, and it was brightly colored, and they could use a squeegee on it. They built troughs in the front of the set, and in between every break, they’d take these giant squeegees and pull all this crap into these troughs and put the grates back over the top of them. The good part was that after a day of hot lights, it smelled like death."
The physical challenges on Double Dare were complete messes, often involving a strange assortment of liquids spilling onto the floor. The DD crew figured out how to clean the set as quickly as possible, but still only managed to shave their time down to 30 minutes.
That fast turnaround was a necessity. Since multiple episodes of Double Dare were often filmed in one day, that meant the physical challenges were usually filmed back-to-back. The crew had to scramble to make the stage presentable for the next group of competitors.
It's important to remember just how dangerous some of the physical challenges were on Double Dare, especially with that slippery linoleum floor. Fortunately, very few actual injuries occurred during filming – but there were some serious scares.
Host Marc Summers revealed one time when he thought a little boy might have actually died while running through one of the obstacle courses:
"We had an obstacle called the Sewer Chute, which was, you’d go up a ladder and then go down a ladder in a very narrow sort of Plexiglass box, and the kid coming down fell backwards, and it looked like he snapped his neck. I thought he was dead. If you see me on the course, all I say over and over again is, 'Are you okay? Are you okay? Are you sure you’re okay?'
We go into the control room after the fact, and this kid should not be alive. His neck snapped like I couldn’t believe. [Geoffrey] Darby used to say, when they’re that young, they bounce, but this one was scary as hell."
Turns out, the kid's father was an attorney too, who threatened to sue the show if they didn't give his son the prize flat-screen TV he had been competing for.
In order to live up to its established craziness, Double Dare found some truly ingenious ways to make its physical challenges that much stranger over the years. At one point, that even included having the contestants jump into a kind of baked bean mixture, which was disgusting from the get-go. And just got worse as more time passed, and the mixture boiled under the heat of the hot stage lights.
Announcer John Harvey revealed that eventually, septic trucks were called in to take the baked bean mixture out, because the crew refused to come into contact with it:
"[Steve Pannepacker] called the honey wagon. You know, the guy who brings the big sucker truck that sucks out septic tanks. He’s parked outside on 7th and Arch in Philadelphia, and he runs a big, long hose into the baked bean tank that’s been there all week under the lights and sucks it out."