The Titan Games

By | January 4, 2019

This started on NBC last night, a new show hosted and produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson where everyday athletes battle it out in order to become… Titans.

Basically it’s American Gladiators writ large, and without the Gladiators. Events are really impressive in terms of staging and sheer physicality – there’s been some money spent on this and it shows. I don’t know how many games there are in total, not including Mount Olympus six games were shown off last night, four games played once and two played twice. Each testing a slightly different muscle set. Some wouldn’t look out of place on something like World’s Strongest Man (something like Heavy Metal – drag a yoke across the shoulders with heavy chains on each end up hill getting heavier the higher you go, use the yoke as a crank to lift a concrete block when you get to the top, or Hammering Ram – use a sledgehammer to knock a pin in to release a 350lb battering ram, then bash a large wooden door in) albeit with an added agility requirement.

Contestants are paired off and each compete in just one event, the winner faces somebody else in the awe-inspiring Mount Olympus, the winners of which (of which there will be eight male and eight female) get declared Titans and get to come back at the end of the series for one last Titanic struggle to become ultimate champion. It seems to be a “double episode” every week, so they go through the process twice.

It’s a shame then that it feels like so much of it feels like it’s given over to each contestant’s “inspiring” backstory, over the course of the two hours you’ll see up to 16 video pieces (for whatever reason, one game was just a highlights package in the second of last night’s tournaments). If you add to that the 20% of the show given over to Dwayne Johnson being just a great guy, that means we have a frustrating situation where the key centrepieces, the events, begin to feel a bit like unwelcome guests at their own party. If you’d consider that American Glads used to get through 12-14 played games in an hour show, this struggles to six in. One of them last night took just 22 seconds, for a build up of several minutes.

This is a bit of a shame really.

5 thoughts on “The Titan Games

  1. Andrew, the Yank

    I was planning to watch this over the weekend, I was legitimately excited about this show in a way I haven’t in a while in American television. But.. of course, it’s American television, with all the frustrating tropes that entails. Bah.

  2. Max Thomas

    I was worried about this. As great as it is for it to be ‘Inspiring’, the truth is that the home audience doesn’t give a crap about it. We would rather see more games and The Rock

  3. Chris M. Dickson

    I’m going to try to make the case that that wasn’t even the most interesting new game show in the US that night.

    As well as The Titan Games, the US saw the first episode of The Masked Singer, their version of South Korea’s King of Mask Singer, and slightly different. The basic principle is the same, though: singers and other celebrities sing songs from within elaborate masks and full-body costumes. You can compare it to The Bit Of The Voice With The Chairs That Everybody Likes; singers are compared on their singing, not their identity. In the Korean original, the competing singers have a short single-elimination tournament, and its winner (from the second two-episode “generation” onwards) goes on to take on the reigning champion from the last generation in a sing-off. Every singer who loses a contest is demasked.

    There’s one particularly interesting contest: here, and the male singer turns out to be someone whose voice someone from these parts just might be able to identify. (You might also recognise one of the judges , as well!) I’ll not reveal who the singer is, though it’s very easy to look up. It’s tempting to wonder why he might be there and why the Korean audience might ever have heard of him, but apparently he’s been to Korea nearly 40 times and considers it almost a second home, so it may not be surprising that he can speak a little of the language and can sing in it as well, and it may well be that the audience really were able to recognise him from his voice alone.

    The US version has the same principle but has reversioned the format, possibly to suit US expectations and tastes, possibly to make it ostensibly a different format that they can sell on (cf Schlag den Raab / Beat The Star), possibly to save money. The US is starting with 12 masked singers and eliminating one per week in a way that people will have been familiar with since the dawn of Idol (or, considering that only half of them are singing each episode to begin with, maybe more like Dancing With The Stars). The neat thing about doing it this way is that they can (and have started to) build up an ongoing series of clues from week to week as to who the masked stars are.: apparently they have a combined 65 Grammy nominations, 16 multi-Platinum albums, 16 Emmy nominations, 9 Broadway shows, 4 Super Bowl titles, and 4 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame between them, so some degree of fame, and hence some real playalong value. Sadly the masks – well, costumes – are things like a lion, a unicorn, a pineapple or a generic monster this series, but perhaps a future series just might see the US trying to work out Who Is The Mole? after all.


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