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'Wipeout Bowl' takes on Super Bowl

Whether or not your favorite team made it to Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday you may find another reason to cheer.

Over on ABC, the Cheerleaders are taking on the Couch Potatoes at 10 p.m. in the first annual "Wipeout Bowl."

The special airs in the last hour of a three-hour block of the hit reality series "Wipeout" - which begins directly across from NBC's live telecast of the Super Bowl and continues after the game should be over - in which competitors take on a series of challenging obstacle courses featuring slippery balls of all sizes. These brave souls must climb, run, jump, dodge and face the ever-present threat of landing in very cold water.

"It's summertime," co-host Jill Wagner says, "so the water is not cold."

Well, the second regular season of "Wipeout" airs next summer - following the successful pattern of season one - but the special was filmed right before Thanksgiving. The days may still be warm at that time of year on the show's location, about 30 miles north of Los Angeles, but the nights are not, and therefore the water isn't, either.

So if a competitor slips, falls or bounces and winds up taking a plunge, it'll be a shock to the system. But there are benefits.

"We keep the water cold to eliminate the swelling," quips John Henson, who shares host duties with John Anderson, while Wagner talks to the contestants.

This time, though, the trio will look a little different - and there is an addition.

"Jill is dressed as a very sexy ref," executive producer Matt Kunitz says. "The Johns are both dressed in classic Howard Cosell ABC Sports jackets. And we brought in an extra special sideline reporter, NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin. We never worked with him before, so it was taking a little chance there. He was hilarious. What we discovered is, it's a lot of fun having a new person on the course. Jill's seen it all, so when she sees somebody on the course bounce off the big balls, it's still funny, but it's not as good as the very first time. Having Michael out there reacting to seeing some of this stuff for the very first time was very funny, and he was great with the contestants."

Along with Irvin, the "Wipeout Bowl" also has a mascot.

"Ballsy the Mascot," Kunitz says. "He looks just like a big ball, but he's got white arms and white feet. The mascot runs the course, so you can imagine what that might look like.

"Literally every safety diver and every stunt tester was ready to jump in the second Ballsy fell in the water, because you can't really swim in the Ballsy mascot outfit.

"Now, I'm not saying whether Ballsy actually fell in the water or not, but if he did, we were prepared to save him."

As for the "Wipeout Bowl" combatants, Kunitz says, "It's Cheerleaders versus Couch Potatoes. We have 12 of what you would expect - slouchy guys, big football fans. They're all dressed in their favorite team uniforms. They've got their cheeseheads on and their beer and chips and hot dogs, but they came to compete.

"The cheerleaders come from professional teams and colleges, all active cheerleaders. We have the USC marching band. We had the Blue Angels' flyover to start off the day."

Kunitz suggests that viewers can tune in to the first two hours of the "Wipeout" event if they become bored with the game at any point, or if they don't want to watch the halftime show.

"Because we have so much content," Kunitz says, "nothing's repeated. You'll see brand-new stuff during the Super Bowl halftime show, and after the game, there'll be a full, brand-new episode. Who really wants to see Bruce Springsteen at halftime? Certainly I would say anyone under 20 wouldn't be interested. My wife says, anyone under 30. So, anyway, we'll watch 'Wipeout' at halftime, then we'll tune back into the game. As soon as the game's over, I would suggest that you DVR the postgame show and watch our 'Wipeout Bowl' live."

NBC is airing an episode of the comedy "The Office" in the post-Super Bowl slot, but Kunitz isn't sure families would want to stick around for that.

"'Wipeout' is a family show," he says. "It appeals to kids and adults. 'The Office' is clearly not a family show."

"The type of humor this show features is ageless," Henson says, "in that it appeals to a 7-year-old, and it appeals to a 70-year-old, and everybody in between." 10 SUPER ALTERNATIVES

Not going to watch the Super Bowl? Here are 10 alternatives, besides "Wipeout."

"THE SOPRANOS" MARATHON (noon-midnight, A&E) - All the episodes from Part One of Season 6 (March-June, 2006). That's the season that began with Uncle Junior shooting Tony.

"PUPPY BOWL V" (starting at 3p.m., repeating every two hours, Animal Planet) - Harry Kalas narrates as dogs from local animal shelters play; don't forget the kitten halftime show.

"THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW" (7-10 p.m., TV Land) - Six episodes featuring Andy, Opie and Barney. At 7:30, Andy and Barney battle moonshiners.

"COPS" MARATHON (7-10 p.m., Tru) - All episodes take place in Palm Beach, Fla., the same state that's hosting the Super Bowl. That can't be a coincidence.

"THE SIMPSONS" (8 p.m., Fox/5) - The Simpson family takes a vacation at a cabin in the woods; Homer and Marge recall their courtship and their early years of marriage.

"ACE IN THE HOLE" (8 p.m., TCM) (Drama, 1951) - One of Billy Wilder's forgotten classics: Kirk Douglas plays a

New York newsman in

New Mexico who delays a cave-in victim's rescue to milk the story.

"GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT" (8p.m., FMC) (Drama, 1947) - Writer Gregory Peck goes undercover as a Jew to expose anti-Semitism.

"MASTERPIECE CLASSIC" (9p.m., WNET/13) - In

this newest version of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," two sisters, though poor, attract a trio of promising gentlemen.

"MITZI GAYNOR: RAZZLE DAZZLE! THE SPECIAL YEARS" (9 p.m., WLIW/21) - Archival footage features the singer, dancer and actress becoming a hit on variety TV shows of the 1960s and '70s.

BOXING (9 p.m., ESPN) - Buster Douglas' stunning 1990 victory over heavyweight champ Mike Tyson.

-ANDY EDELSTEIN

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