'American Ninja Warrior' leaps back with new episodes, upgraded courses, fresh formatby jmaloni
Host Matt Iseman teams with Akbar Gbaja Biamila; Jenn Brown added as co-host
NBC and Esquire Network (formerly G4) are teaming once again to bring the heart-racing obstacle course competition series "American Ninja Warrior" to television this summer. The show will air weekly on Esquire Network and then NBC on consecutive days, with original episodes on each network.
Former NFL player and sports analyst Akbar Gbaja Biamila (NFL Network) will join the show as host alongside Matt Iseman, who is returning to the show for its fifth season on Esquire, and its second full season on NBC. Two-time Emmy Award-winning sports broadcaster Jenn Brown (ESPN) will serve as a co-host as well, providing on-the-spot commentary and competitor interviews.
"American Ninja Warrior" began production on its new season April 5 with the Los Angeles qualifying and finals rounds in Venice Beach. The show will also hold city qualifying and finals rounds in Denver, Baltimore and Miami before moving on to the national finals in Las Vegas, where contestants will face the ultimate challenge: A four-stage course modeled after the famed Mount Midoriyama from the original Tokyo Broadcast System series "Sasuke."
This season, the competition features a newly revised format for each city's qualifying and finals courses. With a "win and get in" format, all competitors who successfully complete a city's qualifying course will earn a spot in that city's finals. From there, all competitors who are able to conquer the finals course will earn a trip to Las Vegas and the chance to win the title "American Ninja Warrior" along with the $500,000 grand prize.
As in past seasons, competitors will include men and women from all walks of life, including school teachers, firemen, current and former members of the military, avid "parkour" enthusiasts as well as amateur athletes and even a few Olympic gold medalists.
"After the success of last season, we knew we had to give audiences more of the thrills and excitement that only 'American Ninja Warrior' can deliver," said Arthur Smith, CEO of A. Smith & Co. Productions. "This year promises to be bigger, better and even more challenging. We can't wait to showcase the amazing talent of our competitors as they undertake their quest to become America's next ninja warrior."
New host Gbaja Biamila rose from stardom at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles to play for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders. Most recently, Gbaja Biamila worked as an on-air analyst for NFL Network. He also volunteers with the athletics program at his high school alma mater and works with the youth mentoring program Athletes for Education.
The Emmy Award-winning Brown has most recently served as a sideline reporter for ESPN's college football telecasts, the College Baseball World Series and "X Games." She has also reported for ABC, E! Entertainment and CNN. Reporting for a travel show took her to 25 countries, including visits to places such as Bora Bora, Brazil, Alaska, Barcelona and the Ukraine.
Iseman returns to the show for his fourth season as co-host. After earning his medical degree, he segued into comedy and began his hosting career on "Scream Play" for E! Entertainment and "Casino Night" for GSN. Shortly after that, he started a five-year run as the "go-to-guy" on Style Network's "Clean House," which led to "Clean House Comes Clean" and "Clean House: The Messiest Home in the Country," which earned Iseman a Daytime Emmy Award. Most recently, Iseman hosted "Family by Design" for Style and has been touring with his one-man show, "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus."
Based on the global hit "Sasuke" from the Tokyo Broadcast System, the original series has run for 28 seasons with only three competitors successfully completing the final obstacle course. "American Ninja Warrior" has performed solidly for both Esquire and NBC. Last summer's run on NBC averaged a 2.2 rating and 6 share in adults 18-49 and 5.9 million viewers overall.