Even though the purpose of my blog is to discuss obstacle course racing, I feel it’s worth taking time to discuss the new Netflix competition series, Ultimate Beastmaster. Considering the variety of athletes that have taken on The Beast, including a few elite OCR and Crossfit athletes, it still makes sense for me to review it. Before I get into the details, here’s my overall review:
Sorry for the small image…it’s the best I could get of this gif.
So here’s a really short breakdown for the show for those who haven’t seen it:
Basically, Ultimate Beastmaster is a reality competition show where athletes from six countries (USA, Mexico, South Korea, Germany, Brazil, and Japan) take on the fight on this incredible obstacle course, two athletes per country in each episode. There are four levels, and unlike other similar shows, the key of this show is to earn points. Each complete obstacle gives the athlete points, and the top athletes of each round move on. It starts with twelve in Level 1, then eight in Level 2, five in Level 3, and the top two take on Level 4. The winner of each episode wins $10,000 and moves on to the final episode, and the top prize for the whole season is $50,000.
Aside from the different countries that are represented, the most unique aspect of the show is that it is produced by Sylvester Stallone.
First off, the best part of this show is what should be the best part: the obstacles are hands down some of the most incredible obstacles out there. I sat with my girlfriend watching an episode, pointing out that we were watching Level 1, and her reaction of “You mean there’s MORE after this?!” is what they were shooting for. With intense obstacles like Faceplant (a leap from a tower that slowly leans forward to grab a rope or chain) to Energy Coils (jumping between platforms 10 feet apart that hang 15 feet above the water) and Prism Strike (a rope on a curved track) and the Energy Tower with four separate climbing areas…yeah, the obstacles are intense.
I also really enjoy the wide range of athletes they have on the show. They include OCR athletes as mentioned above, as well as weightlifters, rock climbers, decathletes, and even an Olympic Gold Medal swimmer. While American Ninja Warrior has a decent variety, it’s not nearly as wide ranging in the athletic variety. (The rise of gyms and exercise regimens catering to Ninja Warrior, OCR races, and Parkour has made it easier to shoot for such competitions.) At least Ultimate Beastmaster has made a push to include a wide variety from various areas of athletics.
Yeah, here’s where the above gif makes more sense. While the athletes and obstacles are awesome, the rest of the show is hands-down cheesy. I mean, stupidly cheesy.
For starters, they have commentators from each of the six represented countries (and from what I understand, each country has their own version of the show with the focus being on their own commentators). On my home Netflix account, I have access to both the US version (obviously) and the Mexican version (though I haven’t watched it at the time of this writing). From what I watch, they move around and show all of the commentators, but mostly just to show them cheering on their countrymen. The commentators are less like sports broadcasters and more like cheerleaders. (Makes sense, since none of the commentators, with the exception of Charissa Thompson) are or have ever been sports broadcasters. They include soap stars, comedians, and a former UFC fighter (not that there’s anything wrong with him being a broadcaster…please don’t hurt me).
As for the commentators, here’s the cheesiest part: I’m pretty certain that they shot their parts and commentaries AFTER the athletes actually competed! How do I know? Well, first off, everyone wears the exact same outfit for the entire season. And for another, they’re clearly looking at monitors that are next to their cameras, not actual athletes on actual obstacles. And throw in that Terry Crews sounds completely scripted and fake every time he speaks, and it gets more obvious. (In fact, watch Charissa Thompson the last two or three episodes; you can tell she’s clearly tired, like she’s been on set for eight to ten hours shooting commentary while talking to a monitor.)
Occasionally the commentators provide some entertainment. My personal favorite is when the South Korean hosts are excited until their athlete fails, and the hosts just fall silent and stare. It’s kind of hysterical. But in all honesty, jumping around between the commentators is a distraction. If each country has its own version, sure, mention that there are others, but then leave it there.
Next up is how they make it sound like it’s a live sports broadcast. American Ninja Warrior is the same way. (“Let’s get caught back up with the action.” “While we were away, three other athletes took on the course.”) People aren’t stupid; we know these shows were recorded and edited. Stop pretending they aren’t. However, unlike American Ninja Warrior, Ultimate Beastmaster is not filmed in front of a live audience. And yet, after the first couple of episodes, the producers decided to add in canned audience cheering. Really? Again, people aren’t stupid. We know there’s no audience. Why attempt to pretend there is? The commentators aren’t even there to see it live! These athletes are pulling off incredibly difficult feats; there’s no reason to add such cheesy and unnecessary elements to the show.
So I know what some of you are thinking: do all of those “bads” seem to actually drag down all of the “goods” to make the show rating “Eh”? Yes, actually. They’re pervasive enough to make watching the show difficult. But if you can muster through it, watch the show for the obstacles. They really are incredible.