Editor and founder of New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald, weighed in on Australian Ninja Warrior hitting New Zealand television in a recent column.
Australian Ninja Warrior Marks New Era of Reality TV
Ninja Warrior allows everyday people (and a smattering of athlete celebrities) the chance to shine on national television in a silly made-up sport which is also hardly less silly and made-up than our other sports.
The show has an interesting history both nationally and locally. It started life in Japan as Sasuke in the late ’90s – a time when the bizarro competitive sports show was still a viable format.
Gladiators was the biggest international version, a combination of professional wrestling and obstacle course which was a smash hit for much of the ’90s.
The Australian version arrives, and … it’s basically the same as the American one, but with Australian accents. Which is to say it’s pretty damn watchable – climbers, gymnasts, runners and the AFLers testing balance and brawn across a familiar course.
It’s popular enough for Three to put it slap in the middle of primetime on a Wednesday – often a precursor to an international franchise getting a local run (assuming it can rate).
Over on TVNZ they’re getting in on the action too, with transtasman collaboration Spartan confirmed for 2018.
The series is a co-production with Channel 7 in Australia, and will draw on the large pool of talent from distinctly modern hybrid sports like Crossfit and MMA, each of which has become a global phenomenon through billing their competitors as, respectively, the fittest and the toughest people on earth.
Or have we seen this before in the 90s?
Personally I’m yearning for a revival of our own ’90s multi-sport show: Clash of the Codes.
The show featured a variety of current and former household name athletes representing their own codes across a variety of unfamiliar challenges. Most, from memory, involved mud.
The show allowed you to root for whatever sport you most identified with, had flash athletes disgracing themselves in unfamiliar sports and had this thin veneer of ultra-competitiveness in its implicit judging of which sport made you fittest.
Given that we have a renewal of interest in sports-centred shows and have dozens of former stars wandering round (fun fact: most own supermarkets) it seems the perfect time for a reboot.