How Do You Like the New Format of American Ninja Warrior? (My Thoughts)

Summertime is American Ninja Warrior time, and we’ve watched the first 4 or 5 episodes of the latest season, all of them at the basic qualifying level. The show has made a few key tweaks this season so far (as well as upcoming episodes that are fully head-to-head), and I’m curious about your thoughts on them.

The first change is to switch from 90-minute episodes (streaming on Peacock) to 45-minute episodes. I think this is a great change, at least for the qualifiers, as the episodes build quicker to great runs at the end while still leaving time for stories, unique runs, and progression (without any of those elements overstaying their welcome).

The second change is the challenge of the “mega wall”. In the last few seasons, you had a choice when finishing a run to run up the normal warped wall or the much taller mega wall, which came with a $10k payoff. This season they added a timed element: If you finish the course (including the normal warped wall) in 1:20 or less, then and only then may you attempt the mega wall. I like how this has given speedy contestants a reason beyond pride to race through the course, though it’s also led to some early falls from top competitors.

The third change is the the one I’m a little iffy on. For each qualifying round, the top 12 men and the top 4 women advance (a ratio presumably determined by number of applicants). However, at the end of each qualifying round, to determine #12 and #4, the 12th and 13th men race head to head through a new course (same with the 4th and 5th women), with the furthest and fastest person in each matchup claiming the final spot. Some of these matchups have been entertaining, but most of them quickly fizzle out when someone falls early. After all, these are not the best contestants–this is the middle of the pack.

I’m not entirely sure what problem these last-place races are trying to solve. I do think there is a problem they could solve, though: Veteran competitors who fall early, often on balance obstacles. I’d love for them to have a second chance in head-to-head races. They could base it on past buzzers hit. While it’s not entirely fair to newer competitors, it adds meaning to the buzzers and gives new competitors a lifeline in the future to look forward to.

What do you think about these changes? Are you enjoying the new season?

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