Television producer Mark Burnett is mostly known for Survivor, the CBS reality show entering its 23rd season this fall. However years before “Outwit – Outplay – Outlast” entered the lexicon of American television Burnett read a newspaper article about a French adventure competition called the Raid Gauloises. Burnett bought the format rights to the race and in 1995 staged the first Eco-Challenge. Consisting of a team comprised a mandatory mix of both men and women, racing non-stop, 24 hours a day, over a rugged 300-mile (500km) course, participating in such disciplines as trekking, whitewater canoeing, horseback riding, sea kayaking, scuba diving, mountaineering, camelback riding, and mountain biking.
The last Eco-Challenge was held in 2002 in Fiji, retired in order for Burnett to focus on his Survivor franchise. Nearly ten years later the Eco-Challenge returns in a modified form featuring everyday people rather than the hardened adventure racers of the Eco-Challenge. Expedition Impossible (airing Thursday nights at 9 pm on ABC this summer) features thirteen teams of three competitors as they “solve problems while racing across deserts, over mountains and through rivers” across the nation of Morocco (a former Eco-Challenge location). Essentially mixing adventure racing with the narrative style of Survivor and The Amazing Race, Expedition Impossible serves as a middle ground between the two types of show – not quite an athletic/sporting competition but at night no one is staying in a hotel. Expedition Impossible is a worthy summer television entrant.