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Extreme Cycles

Philip Burrowes

From the people that brought you the XFL and The Blind Wheelmate-View comes EX-treme Dating, a brutally dishonest look at relationships in the Aughts. Join host Jillian Barberie as she leads a rotating panel of unemployed American Gladiators against couples willing to put themselves to the ultimate test: ridiculous, death-defying stunts. This fall, it’s dating ... TO THE MAX. [Insert Air Guitar] Check your local listings.

Okay, the actual premise behind “EX-treme Dating” is slightly less preposterous, but given the spate of “extreme” projects out there (the “ex” is for ex-girlfriends), it wouldn’t be all that surprising. Everywhere you look, daredevil sports of all stripes are making a comeback. It’s enough to make Nineties Children cry. Then again, they’re a bunch of spoiled brats who would just as soon sob over falling behind in the “next-generation” video game console race as they would some ridiculously premature nostalgia.

Since some people managed to get here by “studying” instead of watching television like any healthy, overweight child, here’s a little refresher on 90s: The Early Years. Let’s take a trip back to when the only cartridges you needed were for your Genesis, when MTV could get away with airing Speed Racer, and when Democrats knew their place was in the House. Kids were busy trying to decide which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle was their favorite (even though everyone knows Usagi Yojimbo was, like, way cooler), attempting to break their siblings’ high scores in Skate or Die 2, and all you needed was the right dosage of Mountain Dew to make you run around like an idiot.

We all know it was great, but we have to come back to the present and, oh, would you look at that; everything’s the same. Somehow, Scooby-Doo managed to become the first CG-character to utter “Cowabunga,” Tony Hawk: Pro Skate Two Billion continues to outsell the genius which is Harvest Moon (who amongst us hasn’t wanted to run a digital farm?), and Mountain Dew still proudly proclaims itself as some sort of extremity-inducing drug. How did this happen? Why didn’t we see it coming? Nobody expected the XGames to take off (it was on ESPN2, for Pete Gumbel’s sake). The success of The Fast and the Furious could all be chalked up to the vocal sexiness of Vin Diesel and Ja Rule. Snowboarding reached the Winter Olympics in 1998, but that was just to help the pansy Americans. Rollerball’s box-office blunders may have distracted us, but once the trend had trickled down to kids’ movies in Clockstoppers, we should have all bent over in anticipation of the onslaught, yet LaVerde’s stayed stocked in lubes.

Now there’s just no stopping the proliferation of extreme-ness. TNBC, not content to have copied the intricate character dynamics of Clockstoppers to make Just Deal, created sk8 to air repeats of StateTV while nobody (but columnists with way too much time on their hands) noticed. Content far too long to let Yoplait dominate the totally tubular juvenile-snack market with its Go-Gurt, Kraft has launched an entire sub-brand of “X-treme” Jell-O products. Stuart Little gets double the rad-point bonus for playing air guitar on a skateboard.

As is, it would seem that the resurgence of boarder-marketing scheme is innocent enough, especially in comparison to such old yet fading advertisement tricks as racially coded cartoon mascots and nonsensical cereal slogans. Yet it seems the damage is far greater than we could have imagined. Companies -- in their forward-thinking mission -- have looked back and seen that current trends have their roots in the surfing fad of the mid-1900s. How else do you explain the the coexistence of Lilo & Stitch with Blue Crush?

Finally, either mankind’s greatest hopes or worst fears have been realized in XXX. Vin Diesel plays the titular porn star out to restore the respect his industry has lost since, well, its inception. Determined to produce some porno that makes a modicum of sense, he must scour the earth to assemble a creative team able to maintain artistic integrity while knowing nobody cares. Enlisting the help of Samuel L. Jackson, who takes an artistic turn as head of the NPR, X3 discovers that in his quest to discover a plot in pornography, he has paradoxically embarked on a mindless parade of action sequences.

Okay, the actual premise behind XXX is slightly less preposterous, but given the spate of “extreme” projects out there you probably don’t care how this is all the same.

P.S. Eleven Princess Points to whoever gets the “forward-thinking” reference.