For any old timers like me, you may remember a program called Wide World of Sports that espoused "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat." Now, in the days of mass media and multiple channels, the Wide World of Sports no longer exists because all the sports in the world can be seen in their entirety in a multitude of ways. And one of those ways has managed to cross over from cable networks to broadcast television: The obstacle course.
Ninja Warrior is a Japanese obstacle course show that has been around for over a decade and debuted on Spike a little over a year ago. It's a multi stage event with about four different courses of increasing difficulty. Unlike MXC, Ninja Warrior was not redubbed as a joke but into something easily digestible for American audiences while retaining the original intent of the show. Ninja Warrior, known as Sasuke in Japan, caught on with viewers and became Spike's best rated show. The show became successful to the point that recurring competitors, known as All Stars, began to grow an American fan base. I've even seen people become friends through their fandom of the show, which is a nice thing (some of whom are nice enough to post here :) But even with over 20 competitions to display the show eventually ran to reruns which begged the question - what if there was new programming of this type to show on a regular basis?
There is a general rule about tv programming I learned in college - if something is successful then copy it. Either your copy will be successful too or you will saturate the market with so much of the same thing that people will get tired of it and drag down the ratings of your once successful competitors. Usually cable networks don't set trends for network tv, but Spike seems to have made the exception to the rule. People want to see other people take hard hits while competing for prizes or pride. Because now there are three programs that closely mimic the ethos of the Spike programs.
ABC has Wipeout which follows the format of MXC. The program is as its title says, it's an obstacle course where the focus is on the big spills and flameouts that happen when you ask people to jump on fast spinning discs or dodge mechanized boxing gloves. Wipeout is hosted by two comedians and the tone is light with very little drama. The emphasis in on fun in the sun. It's not as fun as MXC, you can't get away with as much making fun of people who live in the same country as you (MXC goes into all kinds of sophomoric sexual innuendo that Wipeout can only hint at). But it's fine for what it is, a chance to watch people eat it on national television and look silly.
ABC also has I Survived A Japanese Game Show which combines the typical reality show format of a team of contestants who are eliminated weekly after challenges, teams, etc. It tries to capture the flighty fun of Japanese Game Shows but in attempting to make the whole thing understandable to a general audience it loses its charm. Most of the program seems to revolve around standard reality show drama of who likes whom, who has pacts and so on. Nice travelogue of Japan though.
There's competitive tension, big physical hits and athletic fun from watching American Gladiators. Plus, updated digital effects for the performers intros. I even enjoy it more than watching WWE Raw because the action is better and you get the same amount of trash talk. Of the three Spike influenced shows, Gladiators is the one I like the most as it has the advantage of being based on a classic format. As Hulk Hogan would say, whatcha gonna do when Gladiatormania runs wild on you!