Challenge Extended; Challenge Accepted.

I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for "The Real World/Road Rules Challenge." There is absolutely nothing redeeming about the show, and I'm completely okay with that.I haven't kept up with "The Real World" in a long time, and "Road Rules" was canceled a few years ago, but I'm still an easy mark when it comes to the Challenge. When I was in high school, I would watch MTV's hallmark reality shows and wonder, Is that what people are like in and after college? Once I reached college, it sunk in that the kids on MTV weren't just dumb; they were cataclysmically retarded, the kind of simpering morons who love high school and hate college and barely manage to survive in the adult world with their philosophies of interpersonal relationships cobbled together from selfish desires and a belief in moral relativism and topped off with old reruns of "The Real World": They were living parodies of themselves. That's what makes "The Real World" so pointless now. MTV has stopped trying to pretend that they're doing anything other than recruit seven attractive and deeply f**ed-up young people and forcing them to live in a swanky apartment for half a year and hold down the kind of part-time job that most teens coast through with ease but that never fails to produce headaches for the slope-browed and big-chested denizens of The House. Perhaps sensing that "Road Rules" lacked the inherent drama of its flagship show, MTV turned the outdoorsy reality program into an elimination-based affair (I think the series peaked around the "Northern Trail" era). Later versions of the show were just shamless attempts to weed out normal people and cull a group of hypercompetitive athletes for the Challenge, which has managed to top itself this time out with "The Duel." Honestly, the show's so crazy I barely know where to start: • The women. The women are insane. And not your garden-variety insane, either, the kind of well-meaning crazy that you'll find in most girls (and yes, I often use "girls" and "women" interchangeably, and anyone who thinks that's biased can cram it). These women are full-tilt wackos, and it's awesome. Now that Tonya isn't on the show, having apparently decided to make something of her reality TV fame, the producers have defaulted to Beth as the villain. It's a lazy choice, but somebody's got to be the villain, and it's not like they're gonna choose Paula, the anorexic one. Although Skinny P did look right into the camera after being eliminated in The Duel and say: "This was a duel between me and myself." Right on, sister. • The men. Oh, the men are frightening. Tall, brooding, bizarrely muscular, relentlessly stupid, and never more than one crooked stare away from starting a fight with the other males. My favorite part is watching these guys be completely honest about their intellectual shortcomings. A lot of the challenges, especially the final game, involve visual puzzles of some kind, which is always when the guys hit a wall or defer to their female partners. This happened a lot on last season's "Fresh Meat," and the best scenes were always where cast member Wes, who's bound to be wanted in a score of frat-related rapes throughout the Midwest, would turn to his partner Casey, a pretty but vapid girl who was recruited to be the fresh meat, and expect her to solve the puzzle. Confronted with horrifying riddles or, God forbid, a tangram, Wes would take a break from calling Casey a "lazy bitch" (which he did a lot) and wait for her to fix things. That kind of unselfconscious neediness, that forthcoming idiocy, is almost endearing. But it's ultimately just watchable TV. Honestly, what's not to love about the show? Watching the weekly competitions is a chance to zone out completely and watch completely unbalanced people compete for fabulous cash and prizes. Casey used some of her prize money from last season to buy breast implants, which she bragged about in the first episode of this season. Really, how can you not cheer on someone like that?