NBC’s new sports competition show, The Titan Games, will make its highly anticipated debut Thursday, January 3 at 8 p.m. ET. We’ve been allowed the uniquely fun experience of watching the show come to life from behind the scenes. Over the past months, we’ve attended the final casting trials of the show and were on set to see the athletes step into Dwayne Johnson’s dramatic stadium. All of this has left us with one conclusion: If you love American Ninja Warrior, you should watch The Titan Games.
As one of the show’s commentators, Liam McHugh, described it for us, “The Titan Games is a chance for everyday athletes to become everyday heroes. People train, toil in anonymity, then they get to come here and Dwayne Johnson gives them this incredible stage to prove themselves.”
There are five key areas where American Ninja Warrior fans will find an overlap of interest in The Titan Games.
1.) The athletes
The Ninjas shock us season after season with their ability to push their bodies to new levels of accomplishment, while remaining grounded to their everyday lives. That unbelievable strength, sense of community, and blind determination is born again in the pool of Titans athletes.
The show’s field reporter Cari Champion discussed how the platform has drawn in a passionate group, looking for the continuation of their story. “A lot of the people we’re meeting in this contest have decided to take other journeys based on not being able to fulfill those dreams as the next super star athlete. They’ve made a life for themselves but they still have this fire inside of them. They still want to be a competitor at a high level. This is the place for them to compete at a high level.”
The Titan Game’s other commentator, Alex Mendez, echoed that sentiment. “It’s unbelievable. To see people who are just regular folks, like me, like Liam, come out here and do some amazing stuff and prove themselves, prove to their opponents and also prove to themselves that they are capable of being able to do incredible things. It’s the ordinary doing the incredible. I think that is the true definition of the human spirit. It’s a beautiful thing.”
2.) The challenges
Like Ninja Warrior, The Titan Game’s challenges are ingeniously simple in their execution, yet they as far from easy as possible. That sense, of, “I can do that. Oh wait. Yeah, I absolutely couldn’t do that.” You’ll find it here.
“The challenges are crazy.” Champion shared. “I head DJ say that the reason why they are so intense is because he stays up late at night and creates them in his mind. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Gotcha.’ Because I don’t even know how someone would come up with Mount Olympus. It’s a monstrosity. What is that up there and how do you decide that these are the things people should do.”
In a preview, the show gave us a look at one challenge, the Hammering Ram. It happens to be a favorite of McHugh. “I really enjoyed Hammering Ram. Just the grand scope of it. I think if you’re a kid, just imaging something in your backyard, like, ‘Let’s knock this down and storm the castle! Break through these doors!’ That came to life here in front of all of us.”
3.) The stories
“Just like American Ninja Warrior, the stories of who these people are will be a big part of our show,” Smith said. “Their backgrounds. What they’ve overcome. We have all of that. It is like Ninja Warrior in ordinary people doing extraordinary things. This will be the same way.”
American Ninja Warrior captures our fascination through not just what the athletes do, but who they are, where they come from. The ability to relate to their challenges implants their names in our minds and makes us fans of specific competitors. The Titans are also humans at the very core, who’ve made conscious decisions to overcome the hurdles life has thrown them.
Champion, who spent ample time with the athletes, shared, “I think you want to root for people who’ve have been through tough times. They’ve fallen down and picked themselves up by the boot straps. I always say this, but it’s really truly about the sweat equity. How people really dig in deep, fight, work hard, and come out a winner.”
4.) The excitement
If you can accurately predict the outcome of any given episode of American Ninja Warrior, we’d like you to pick some lottery numbers for us. You can’t get comfortable with the course, and you won’t get comfortable with The Titan Games.
The bottom line, and we’re saying this because we’ve seen it ourselves is this: You don’t know what’s going to happen. Seriously, you don’t.
McHugh felt the same way. “At this point, just completely expect the unexpected. The minute Alex and I feel like we’ve got a hold on this, whenever we’ve been like, ‘Oh this guy is fantastic. He’s going to cruise right through,’ we’re completely wrong. We’re shocked and surprised and I think that’s the cool thing about this show. The unknown.”
5.) The Rock
Okay, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t acknowledge the pretty famous elephant in the room. Obviously, the show’s host has a bit of an draw in his own right. Executive Producer Arthur Smith discussed why Johnson was drawn to help create this new format.
“I’ve had a number of meetings with Dwayne and he also appreciates all the good fortune that he has. He’ll say it, ‘I’m a lucky son of a b*tch. I’m very fortunate. There were people who helped me. I want to inspire and help others.’ It’s so sincere. The Dwayne Johnson that everybody knows, that everybody sees, is the Dwayne Johnson behind the scenes. He’s so inspiring. [The show] spoke right to him.”
Johnson’s appeal is certainly not lost on his potential Titans. When one participant was asked why she wanted to work with Johnson, she handed back quite the ringing endorsement. “The Rock is an icon. He’s kind of the greatest man ever.”
“You should be watching The Titan Games because there is literally nothing like it on television.” Mendez said. “Not only do we have Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, a world-wide icon, but on top of that, you have some of the most ridiculous challenges ever conceived for a TV show of this capacity. It is a sight to behold. It is one of a kind. It is 100% awesome.”
The Titan Games premieres January 3 at 8/7c pm on NBC