'Winter Wipeout' gets crazy

On Thursday, Jan. 5, when ABC's "Wipeout" settles in for its latest "Winter Wipeout" run, things are going to be a little bigger and crazier.

"Last year was a season of surprises," says executive producer Matt Kunitz, "where everything that the contestants expected to see on the course wasn't exactly what would happen. So we love the surprises, and we kept them up. The course has gotten bigger than it's ever been.

"The falls are sometimes from 20 to 25 feet high. I almost think we got too big, in the sense that it became difficult to build it. It got very expensive. But the wipeouts are spectacular. When you're falling from four feet or five, you don't get a lot of time to see the body spinning or doing flips in the air. If you're falling from 25 feet, you can see multiple flips before they actually hit the water."

But that doesn't mean that more contestants got hurt.

"No," says Kunitz. "Look, safety's always a top concern for us. We had one of our most injury-free seasons this year."

Another new element is co-host Vanessa Lachey, who made her debut in the show's Christmas special back in December.

"She's such a breath of fresh air," says Kunitz. "It's always scary, making a big change like that. We all showed up on the first day, when she had to do her first contestant interview. Literally, within 30 seconds, we were able to take a deep breath and relax because we just knew that she was going to be the perfect fit for this job. "She's very natural. She doesn't have a filter, and that's important. People that would get up there, that are constantly worried about 'How'm I looking? Does this sound right? Do I look OK? Am I being too goofy?' That's not going to work for 'Wipeout.'

"She's the perfect fit because she's so fresh. She's never seen these wipeouts before. Her reactions are so genuine and so truly horrified by the wipeout. She's in the position of the viewer. She sees it through the viewer's eyes and is hopefully asking the questions that the viewer would ask."