This year, American Ninja Warrior is taking place in America. They are running some episodes on NBC during primetime.
I haven’t been watching the prelim runs on G4 on Sundays, just the primetime runs. In general, I like the show. The premise is exciting - try to run the most daunting obstacle course in human history*. The challenges are physically demanding, and stringing them together is a combination of balance, strength, endurance, and judgment.
However, I’m finding the pacing of the show to be dreadful. It is actively annoying. Okay, I enjoy seeing video of some of the stunts the contestants get up to in their own time. Some of those are mindbogglingly crazy. Like hanging by fingertips from a bridge going over traffic, or jumping across gables on a 5 story building, or doing handstands on tops of buildings, bridges, etc. Things where oops = plummet to a distant impact with hard and/or sharp objects.
I can even stand hearing some of the personal sob stories or whatever. Guy who lives in his parent’s living room, guy who lives in his car, youth minister who used to be homeless, guy who’s brother is in Afghanistan, blah blah blah.
What gets me is the blend of who we see and why is inexplicable. They will show one guy, give us a two minute personal history, then show his run through the course and failure on obstacle 4. Aww. Commercial break. “While you were away, we had three more people make their attempts, two of which went out on the Warped Wall, and one of whom made it all the way through. Congrats to Nobody McIgnoresville.”
Now this is not running live. Right? So they didn’t really run three different contestants (at approx 2 - 4 mins each) during one commercial break. Rather, all this was filmed and then edited for our viewing pleasure. Witness that they are running the 6 Regional finals to select contestants to send to the big show, and most episodes are running at 1 hour long, but at least 1 was 2 hours long.
So why do certain people merit all the special attention, while others get glossed over with barely their name mentioned, and maybe a shot of them doing one task, or waving from the top of the tower?
That is the primary complaint. Secondary is the requisite repetiveness that is the nature of TV competition shows in the modern world. “We have to get the attention of all the channel changers who just popped in and don’t know what is going on.” So those of us following along have to hear 47 times that this is the regional finals leading up to the big show in Las Vegas, for the first time.
Couple other minor observations.
One: they are running 6 regions of the US. They have set up the course in different cities for the regionals. But oddly, they have filmed in California, Dallas, and IIRC Ft. Lauderdale. They ran two different regionals in Dallas, and two different regionals in Ft. Lauderdale. They made all the northeasters (Maine, Connecticut, etc) go to Florida for their tryout, made all the folks from the Middle states (Colorado, etc) go to Dallas. I guess they were filming this early enough in the year that the weather was a might cold up north, so they wanted to film the prelims in warmer climes. But they did something strange - they didn’t run the two episodes filmed in Dallas back to back, but spread them out. So it was California, then Dallas, then Florida, then back to Dallas, then back to Florida. Did they actually move the set ups between those shows? Or, more likely, they filmed all in one location before relocating, but just are airing the programs out of order? Odd.
Two: the prelim courses are not consistent between all regions. Sometimes they get one set of obstacles, sometimes they get a different set. Some of them are the same - notably the Quad Steps, the Warped Wall, the Cargo Net. Some of them are swapped out, including the typically third obstacle with some sort of balance beam (rotating balance beam, paddle steps, bungee cord steps), and the big hanging task. They have to climb the Salmon Ladder, then hang by their arms through some task that involves climbing or swinging. One is the Lamp Ladder (globes on posts suspended from above and an incline up, must grip the rounded globes to translate), another some swinging wheels (round wheels at various heights, must grab onehanded at one end, swing across, and grab the next wheel which is mounted at a different height; if you miss, you swing back, and perhaps can’t get enough momentum to get to it a second time). Etc.
In theory, this doesn’t seem precisely fair, but thinking about it it is fair. The challenge is that you will get a series of obstacles and you must cross the obstacles you are presented. They mix and match obstacles across the regions, but each region faces a consistent set. Ultimately, the challenge is to face whatever you are given, so the changeup is an inherent part of the course overall, where there are several stages with different courses.
Anyone else watching? Like it? Hate it? Anyone watching G4? Are they showing more? Do the decisions of who to show make more sense based upon the stuff in the prelim runs on Sunday?
- A little hyperbole. I’m sure there have been obstacle course that failure = instant death.