If Legos and Barbies can be turned into reality competition shows, why not Hot Wheels?
On NBC’s “Hot Wheels: Ultimate Challenge,” 16 Hot Wheels super fans build life-size dream machines in the hopes that their creation becomes a tiny Hot Wheels car people can purchase in stores. They can win $25,000 in the early rounds and $50,000 as the ultimate winner. The show debuted last week and airs on Tuesdays after “America’s Got Talent” at 10 p.m.
Rutledge Wood, who was part of History’s “Top Gear USA” and host of Netflix’s “Floor is Lava,” helms the show, which fits his auto-centric world perfectly. The Peachtree City resident previously lived in Senoia.
“NBC really wanted to find ways to use me bigger and better,” Wood said. “I was mostly on the NBC sports side for so long (largely talking about NASCAR and other racing competitions.) They thought I might be a good fit to be a judge on this show. But I said it would be even better if I was host. Cars and people are two of my biggest loves.”
He sold NBC on his childhood Hot Wheels obsession. “Hot Wheels were a connective tissue in my life,” he said. “My earliest memories include playing with Hot Wheels on my bed. My parents recently gave me the quilt I grew up with. In Alabama, I remember creating street grids on the quilt, placing tow trucks in one spot and sports cars in another. I have three daughters and they give me Hot Wheels every Father’s Day and Christmas.”
NBC bit. So Wood is now the man who gets to tell the audience what’s happening, encourage the contestants and shepherd in guest celebrity judges like Terry Crews, host of the lead-in show “America’s Got Talent,” “Law & Order” actor Anthony Anderson, “Animal Control” star Joel McHale and “Fast & Furious” actor Sung Kang.
Wood comes across as an ebullient dad but also an empathetic one. “I definitely teared up a handful of times,” he said.
During the first episode, which aired last week, a man named Jim created a Hot Wheels car to honor his father and he cried ― as did Wood.
“Jim is this tough Harley riding dude from New Jersey but when he saw the final result, he went right back to being a kid and thought about his dad,” Wood said. “And I was thinking about the team of builders, who put such a great effort into creating something special for this guy they had only known a week.”
The contestants don’t get to keep the cars because they aren’t really set up to drive on the road. “We do so many crazy things,” Wood noted, such as installing flamethrowers and wheelies. “These are basically life-size toys.”
IF YOU WATCH
“Hot Wheels: Ultimate Challenge,” 10 p.m. NBC on Tuesdays