Kicking off ITV’s new Saturday night entertainment triple threat (which also includes the return of Britain’s Got Talent and new sports panel show Play to the Whistle), Ninja Warrior UK is a welcome cross between 90s favourite Gladiators and BBC1’s sadly defunct Total Wipeout.
Based on a Japanese show called Sasuke (which has also spawned Swedish and Turkish versions), it pits competitors against the clock through a six-part assault course featuring Galdiators-style ramps and nets and the kind of water-based obstacles that are likely to see many contestants wipeout totally and hilariously.
The challengers are billed as a mix of “have-a-go-heroes and seasoned athletes” both of which have the potential to be good for a laugh and get the audience rooting for them, whether they do well or just fail epically.
The presenting line-up includes ITV morning hosts Ben Shephard and Rochelle Humes but it’s cult hero Chris Kamara – former England footballer and occasionally hapless Sky Sports presenter – who is likely to bring the fun here. Expect some commentating gems, plus fits of helpless laughter, as the contestants come a cropper.
In Britain, Ninja Warrior is unlikely to take itself too seriously but the truth is that to stand a chance of making your way to the semi-final stages or beyond you have to be a pretty impressive athlete, which is why in the original Japanese series things can get kind of intense…
They take it pretty seriously in America too. Well, most of the time…
Hopefully there’ll be no streakers in ITV’s opening show, although this guy can really move – and it’s worth it for the commentary alone: “I feel like I’m his prostate doctor – and I just have him a clean bill of health!” (Don’t worry, those bits have been pixellated).
Let’s hope Saturday night’s show has been pre-recorded…
Ninja Warrior UK kicks off its eight-part run on ITV at 7pm on Saturday 11th April