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Adam Larkey, ABC
Contestant Carin Chea does a major face-plant competing on the appropriately titled "Wipeout."

American broadcast networks have been looking across the Atlantic for ideas for decades — adapting everything from sitcoms to dramas to reality shows that originated on the other side of the pond.

ABC is now looking across the Pacific for inspiration. To Japan, as a matter of fact.

Or maybe just to cable. To the Spike channel, home of "Most Extreme Challenge."

Yes, it's true. Japanese game shows have invaded America.

"Wipeout" (7 p.m., Ch. 4) is essentially a Japanese game show brought to America. And "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" (8 p.m., Ch. 4) does the same thing in reverse — Americans are taken to Japan to participate in one of these shows.

If you've ever seen "MXC" on Spike, you have a pretty good idea of what this is all about — a bunch of people willing to humiliate themselves by participating in a variety of goofy physical challenges.

Most Americans have only been exposed to this through "Most Extreme Challenge," which took an actual Japanese game show — "Takeshi's Castle," which aired from 1986-89 — and dubbed in American voices and created American characters.

The first time I stumbled across the show, I was taken aback. But after watching it for a while, there were two inescapable conclusions:

It was often downright hilarious. And sort of addictive.

That's not a bad sign for "Wipeout" and "I Survived a Japanese Game Show," although critics were not provided with full episodes of either show. Which is not a good sign.

We did, however, get a few minutes of clips. And both shows are big goofs — pretty much parodies of real game shows.

"Wipeout" features a bunch of people competing to do ridiculous things on an insane obstacle course — facing challenges like "Dizzy Dummy," the "Dirty Balls" and "The Dreadmill." The winner gets $50,000.

There's a whole lot of clumsy/spectacular wipeouts, and contestants fall into pools of mud with great frequency.

"I Survived a Japanese Game Show" has a more intriguing premise. Ten Americans who think they've signed up for just another reality show are surprised when (a) they're flown to Japan, and (b) they're immediately thrown into competing in ways they never imagined.

There are challenges such as "Crazy Crane Finds Fluffy Bear" and "Chicken Butt Scramble," in which "the contestants create their own version of Japanese scrambled eggs as they attempt to smash goo-filled oversize eggs with only their butts ... while wearing chicken suits."

The winner gets $250,000.

The entertainment value comes from watching people take monstrous (an relatively safe) pratfalls. And from the huge humiliation factor.

But, as Americans, we can't exactly climb on any kind of moral high horse about people being humiliated on TV. Heck, tonight alone people will be embarrassed on "So You Think You've Got Talent" and "Hell's Kitchen."

And that's nothing compared to the humiliation people suffer on everything from "Dr. Phil" to "Jerry Springer."

Bouncing off giant rubber balls into pools of mud is nothing compared to that.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com