Watching “MTV’s Ultimate Parkour Challenge” is like being invited to spend an hour with a bunch of stoned street athletes as they talk about the meaning of life and jump over stuff. In fact, the show isn’t “like” that at all, it is that. The first 20 minutes of each episode are attention-worthy because of the impressive feats and good humor, but beyond that, the show’s merits are hard to see.

“MTV’s Ultimate Parkour Challenge”

Thursdays at 10 p.m.
MTV

“Parkour Challenge” follows a competition for a grand prize of $10,000. It brings together eight famous Parkour athletes from all over the world, including Daniel Ilabaca, King David, Tim “Livewire” Shieff, Michael Turner and Brian Orosco, most of whom became famous for filming YouTube videos of their stunts.

Parkour is a sport that combines break dancing, rock climbing and jumping over urban landscapes. Unlike rock climbing, however, there are no proper handholds and basic “jumps” are often made between buildings. The sport uses obstacles like walls, buildings, concrete blocks, bars and fences as objects around, on or over which contenders climb or jump to show off their skills.

In “Parkour Challenge,” the only descriptive words anyone seems to use are “killer” and “pure,” and the show is hosted by guys with nicknames like “Streetbike Tommy.” Sitting on the edge of a roof, moodily looking off into the distance, one competitor tries deciding whether or not to attempt jumping from a roof onto a ladder after having failed once before. The scene is accompanied by loud and inspiring music accompanying this pointlessly long shot, and one might think that these dramatic tricks are setting up a brave second attempt. Wrong. The music and contemplation were just demonstrating how “deep” a sport Parkour is.

This sense of “depth” is a constant theme throughout the show. In between “pure moves” and “killer style,” contestants say things like “This obstacle course symbolizes life” and “It truly just is about the philosophy. It really is just a way of life.” There’s only so many ways they can babble on about how Parkour “defines them” in an hour before it gets to be nauseating in ways beyond description.

While the constant bro-ishness of “Parkour Challenge” is annoying, it has the strange effect of creating an oddly emotional and unusually supportive group dynamic for a cash-prize competition. Literally only one nasty comment was made about another Parkour athlete in the pilot — an athlete was called out for not being in the proper mental state — and even that exchange wasn’t all that nasty. An overabundance of clapping, hugging, back slapping, hand shaking and general concern for others is strategically confusing but admittedly somewhat refreshing.

There are certainly some cool tricks to watch, and the eight main athletes can jump from building to building in considerably amusing ways. At times, however, the tricks and athletes just aren’t impressive enough. Michael Turner especially seemed only to be in the group to add an inspirational element — he’d snapped his leg in half and still returned to compete. Yes, his resolve is impressive, but hearing about it every time he stumbles or changes his plans to account for the old injury is enough to beg the question: Was he worth the price of the plane ticket? After he’s taken by ambulance to the hospital for a cut finger (yes, that really happened), it’s hard not to calculate how much money could be added to the grand prize if he hadn’t been added to the roster.

“Parkour Challenge” certainly isn’t the worst thing MTV has come up with, and on mute it is possible to genuinely enjoy some of the cooler parts of the show — it’s impossible not to be impressed by seeing someone do a handstand on the edge of a 30-foot drop. That said, the show would improve vastly if interviews were almost entirely cut out, along with the repeated footage of injured competitors being driven to the hospital by ambulance. There are better ways to serve up a show like this, and “Parkour Challenge” doesn’t quite make it.

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