In 1986, a small, fledgling network known as "Nickelodeon" created the first game show specifically for children.  It was a show like no other with a brilliant format in which a contestant never had to give a wrong answer, ending in an obstacle course worth thousands of dollars in cash and prizes.  Not to mention gallons upon gallons of slime and mess.  They called it, "Double Dare."

Double Dare is, has, and always will be indescribably special to me.  I know more useless facts about Double Dare than I know about myself.  I was always a huge fan, and went so far as to run a very successful Double Dare website for 8 years.  I'm not really proud of that fact today and don't openly admit to it, but it's true.  But had I not done that site, I wouldn't have made so many friends in the television business that continue to benefit my career today.  I can trace any success in my career back to Double Dare someway, somehow, including my own work with Nickelodeon.  I can't put into words how special this show and everything that has come from it in my life is to me.  It's crazy, it's weird, and it's exactly what I always dreamed of. 

Double Dare was created by a number of people, namely Canadian-born Geoffrey Darby, who had also created (and directed) You Can't Do That on Television in Ottawa, Ontario. He, along with Mike Klinghoffer, Dee LaDuke, Bob Mittenthal, and Debbie Beece created the show.  At this time, there were no Nickelodeon Studios for the show to be produced in.  The show shot in the ridiculously small 55x90 studios of WHYY, a PBS affiliate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 
WHYY studios as they appear today, 2008

It featured a cast of faces that had never been seen on television prior, including host, Marc Summers.  Marc landed the job as the host of Double Dare after auditioning against a slew of people including former Family Challenge host, Michael Burger. This was Marc's first job hosting a game show and it turned out that Marc was the perfect man for the job.

 

 
Radio legend John Harvey (simply known as "Harvey") served as announcer and was a true staple to the show.  He was previously best known for his long stint as the host of "Harvey in the Morning" in Philadelphia.  The chemistry between he and Marc was magical.  The two had a strong friendship that showed on-camera with their constant jokes and antics.

The two also had great chemistry with the show's two on-camera assistants, Dave Shikar and Robin Marrella (who were originally just young production assistants, but were put on-camera because they "looked good").


Robin Marrella, Marc Summers, Dave Shikiar

For those not familiar with the format, the show opened with a tossup stunt that both teams would try to accomplish. The first team to complete the stunt, would win $20 and control of the first round. With control, they were asked the first question, worth $10. If they did not know the answer, or wanted to play strategy, they could say "DARE," at which time the question was asked to the other team and was doubled in value for $20. If they didn't know the answer, they could say "Double Dare," and the question was re-asked to the first team and became worth $40. If they still were unable to answer, they could take the "physical challenge." A physical challenge was a stunt just for that team to be completed in an allotted amount of time. If the team completed it, they would win $40. If not, control was given to the other team and gameplay would resume.


A typical physical challenge in the early days of Double Dare.

After a certain amount of time, a buzzer would sound and the first round would be over.  The show would go to commercial and come back with round two.  Round two started with another tossup challenge to determine which team would gain control. The dollar values were doubled, and the team with the most money at the end of the two rounds went on to run the obstacle course.  Aside from that, gameplay was identical to round one. 

The obstacle course consisted of eight obstacles to be completed in 60 seconds. The two teammates alternated between obstacles, each having to grab a flag to pass to their partner so that they could move to the next obstacle. The flags were either hidden in something or at the end of something.  Each obstacle was worth a prize and if the team completed all eight obstacles, they would win a spectacular grand prize.


The Double Dare obstacle course from 1986.

The obstacle course was every kid's dream.  If you didn't want to go down the Sundae Slide, or put your arm up the giant nose of Pick-It, you were messed up.  The size and complexity of the obstacles evolved as the years went on.  While many obstacles started out as things that weren't too unique (such as the Recipe Tire Run seen above), eventually the obstacle course became a fantasyland of amazingly detailed, one-of-a-kind creations that is truly a credit to the designers, Byron Taylor and James Fenhegan. 

On September 18, 1986, the very first episode of Double Dare was taped. The episode had many pitfalls, because this was the first gig for many individuals working on the show, on camera and off.  The most memorable moment of the first taping day involved the obstacle course.  The first obstacle on the course was a giant pillow called "Nightmare." It proved to be true to its name, as everyone from the production crew to Marc himself were assumed to have put the flag inside, but no one ever did, time and time again.  The obstacle course had to be re-shot four times!

After these initial kinks were worked out, the first 65-episode season of Double Dare went on to almost quadruple Nickelodeon's ratings, giving the network the credibility that it still carries and builds upon to this day.

In 1987, after taping the second 65-episode season in Philadelphia, the show moved to the Unitel studios on 26th street in New York City, and spun off to a 26-episode series of "Super Sloppy Double Dare" to air on Saturday mornings.  This version hardly varied from the original Double Dare. The outfits, stunts, and obstacles were all carried over. One new element to the show was a mailbox on stage with letters sent in by fans. At every physical challenge, a letter would be pulled. If the team performing the physical challenge won, the sender of the letter would win a Double Dare t-shirt. A few VERY minor set changes were also made.


Marc Summers on the set of Super Sloppy Double Dare in 1987, doing
an impression of Tattoo from Fantasy Island.  Note the mailbox on the left.

Harvey, Robin and Dave began getting more and more involved in the show. Not only would Harvey sometimes show up in the obstacle course for one reason or another, but he would also unexpectedly run to the state to ask Marc to demonstrate stunts with him.  However, in turn,  Marc ran the road both ways, however, and would often call on Dave, Robin, Harvey or other unexpecting crew member to perform random tasks such as demonstrating stunts, explaining obstacles or demonstrating obstacles.

In 1988, Double Dare was at the height of its popularity as it moved back to WHYY in Philadelphia to be put into syndication by Fox. This was the first season to have a blue team, as until this point, both teams wore red uniforms.  More new stunts and obstacles were implemented, and several special celebrity weeks were shot.  After 65 episodes, a special 13-episode series was created for the Fox network called Family Double Dare

This summer series was unlike any of the other versions of the show. It aired on Saturday at 7:30 pm (Eastern) from April 3, 1988 - July 23, 1988.

The set was different from any other version of the show. The yellow/purple checkered pattern was covered up by red/yellow and blue/yellow confetti patterns. New, larger podiums were built for the contestants to accommodate four-person families. All red "peanuts" were removed from the podiums and the lights behind Marc and the contestants faded from red to blue (instead of blue to red).  The teams were on opposite sides for a few episodes and the lighting reflected this. The teams were switched back to the normal sides after the first few episodes. The lights, however, stayed the same.

Because the show aired in primetime, the attire changed quite a bit as well. Marc and Harvey wore full tuxedos. Harvey often even wore a top hat. Dave and Robin were dressed in suit vests and dress shirts.  Contestants wore polo style shirts with a small Family Double Dare logo in white on the left side.


When this series was canceled, it wasn't seen again until it came back on Nickelodeon in the "All Day Double Dare A Thon" marathon, which aired September 2nd, 1990.  65 more episodes were produced of the original Double Dare series for syndication after Family Double Dare.  Also, two home videos were produced, titled "Double Dare: Inside Scoop" and "Double Dare: Messiest Moments."
 

"Inside Scoop" was a behind-the-scenes presentation that featured clips of Marc's audition tape, the original Double Dare pilot, the infamous Nightmare nightmare on the first show, and an obstacle course run in 1987 by Marc and Harvey. The two hosted new inserts between segments from the 1988 set of Double Dare. 

"Messiest Moments" contains, well, the messiest moments of show. Segments were broken down into categories, such as the messiest physical challenges, messiest obstacle courses, etc. Also includes additional inserts hosted by Marc Summers and Harvey.