NBC's American Ninja Warrior is already a great show for the whole family, and now it's kid-centric version is getting a new season.
On Saturday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. ET/PT, the Daytime Emmy-nominated American Ninja Warrior Junior returns on NBC's sister cablenet Universal Kids. Coming back as hosts are the same duo that anchors American Ninja Warrior -- Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila -- plus Paralympian gold medalist Victoria Arlen.
Based on a Japanese show called Sasuke, the American versions, adult and junior, feature amateur athletes competing on uniquely difficult obstacle courses, with ever-escalating challenges that test balance, agility, upper-body strength, flexibility, determination and courage.
The adult version has been particularly friendly to the Christian audience, allowing Christian competitors to talk about their faith (in fairness, ANW allows all its competitors to discuss what's important to them). The highest-profile Catholic competitor is Sean Bryan, the "Papal Ninja," who works for a Dominican ministry in the Bay Area of California. He's also one of the most successful, having made it o the finals several times.
In 2017, he visited the L.A. area for an ANW shoot, and we caught up with him for an interview at St. Monica Church in Santa Monica, and then watched him in action (wearing his own line of Papal Ninja apparel, which sports a papal insignia and the colors of the Vatican flag) on Santa Monica's Original Muscle Beach.
Here's part one of our video:
And here's part two:
From NBC Universal on the return of American Ninja Warrior Junior:
American Ninja Warrior Junior celebrates real kid athletes, as more than 140 boys and girls from across the U.S., face off on head-to-head courses in three age brackets: 9 & 10, 11 & 12, and 13 & 14 year-olds. The junior ninjas will compete alongside the reigning champions and a few fan favorites from season one.
New to the course for season two are 10 iconic American Ninja Warrior obstacles including the Shrinking and Floating Steps, the Little Dipper, Spider Walls, Double Tilt Ladders, Crazy Cliffhanger, the Block Run, Flying Squirrel, Wingnuts and Skyhooks.
Each age group will be coached by All-Star Ninja mentors including Najee Richardson & Barclay Stockett (9 & 10 year-olds); Jessie Graff & Grant McCartney (11 & 12 years-olds) and Drew Drechsel & Meagan Martin (13 & 14 year-olds).
In an exciting new twist this season, there will be four wildcard races per age bracket, where the two fastest Ninjas eliminated from the previous qualifiers will have another chance to move into the quarterfinals. Three final winners (one per age bracket) will ultimately be crowned American Ninja Warrior Junior Champions.
The series is executive produced by A. Smith & Co. Productions founders Arthur Smith and Kent Weed along with Matt Cahoon.
You have to click here to see the season-two trailer, but here's a look at what happened in season one:
Image: Universal Kids
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.