If you liked Takeshi's Castle, Ninja Warrior, or Gladiators, then there's a Netflix Original show that you really should check out.
'Ultimate Beastmaster' is a ludicrously named obstacle course gameshow where contestants around the world compete for cash prizes and the honour of calling themselves... The ultimate beastmaster.
It sounds ridiculous, because it is. It's loud, over-the-top, and shamelessly cheesy in parts, but in a good way, and if you give it a chance I'm convinced you'll enjoy it.
In researching how the show has been received I came across a rather negative review from The Guardian, but upon reading I noticed early on that the reviewer had missed the point entirely:
My guess is that 90% of anyone who watches Ultimate Beastmaster, now that it’s gone live on Netflix, will do so because they want to see if it can live up to its ludicrous title. And, if that’s the case, most of those people will be disappointed. Because, to put it bluntly, Ultimate Beastmaster is Ninja Warrior.
That’s it. It’s just Ninja Warrior. There are some people. They do an assault course. Most of them don’t complete it. The commentators react to every slight movement in the same way a drunk toddler might react to the sight of an exploding star. It’s all the same.
Well I'm sorry if it hasn't moved you to tears, or reinvented the wheel, but the reviewer above has clearly taken the show far more seriously than they should have. It is like Ninja Warrior, but it's bigger, and better.
You may not be getting sucked in like 'Stranger Things', or emotionally invested like 'Last Chance U'... You're watching people take on an obstacle course hoping to be either impressed at a display of physical skill, or laugh at someone snotting themselves.
It's the perfect show when you want to switch your brain off and just... Watch.
If you can manage to do that (or better yet, watch it with company) you'll enjoy it, and here are the reasons that I kept on coming back for another episode.
The concept is a good spin on a tried and tested formula.
The 'Beast' is a massive mechanical structure in the shape of a monster with different challenges on different levels. You make your way through each level earning points the further you go. If you fall into the water your run is over and your points go onto the leaderboard. 16 contestants become 8 in level two, then 5 in level three, then two contest the final.
All the while you've your regional hosts who share a platform talking you through the show and making cheesy jokes. You know the score, so you'll be tuning in to see how it's done differently.
Terry Crews and Anderson Silva are part of the commentary team.
Straight away in the first episode it seems as though your host will be Stallone, but then he passes you over to Terry Crews and TV host Charissa Thompson, who are the English speaking hosts.
The Brazilian team includes UFC legend Anderson Silva, which is also awesome. If you don't like Terry Crews then this may not be the show for you, but that's your problem. Crews is a gem. The thing here is even if you don't like the English commentary you can listen in Brazilian or Japanese for a few laughs.
There. Are. No. Ads.
I can't stress how big a deal this is for a show of this kind.
Whereas the norm with these gameshows is usually to tease a big finish to keep you interested only to pump you full of annoying ads, the very nature of Netflix lends itself extremely well to the show's format as it can just run uninterrupted.
Faceplants. Let's be honest, we're all here for the faceplants.
Yes, part of the reason Takeshi's Castle was so well loved (aside from Craig Charles ripping the piss out of the contestants), was because you knew you were getting a big faceplant, or someone falling comically, at every corner.
While UB has less of those moments because the contestants are not just regular muppets pulled off the street, but instead are elite athletes and often specialists in things like rock climbing, when they happen the impact is big.
The contestants range from extremely impressive to complete spoofers, but they are always entertaining, that brings us on to our next point..
Some of the contestants are absolutely unreal.
If there's a Germany prodigy under the age of 20, you're in for a treat. Also, keep an eye out for the Korean contestants as it's very clear they took the application process very seriously.
Case in point, the first episode which features a world champion ice climber and ridiculously impressive individual.
And for those that aren't, they skip the boring people and focus on those who actually care.
You'll get an introduction where they talk some absolute bullshit that makes you not want them to win, and then, typically, they show you a clip from their run where they fail miserably. It's satisfying.
Nobody can complete the course in full.. Or can they?
It is a seriously, seriously challenging course, but not in a Takeshi's Castle impossible-to-win kind of way. It's just such a physically tasking course that strategy and rest come into play, which makes it interesting to watch in each episode.
The winners of each of the nine episodes are invited back to compete and try to be named 'Ultimate Beastmaster' in the series finale.
It's just a fun, easy-to-watch show.
If you've any sort of interest in this type of TV show, then give it a shot.
In my experience, it's the perfect show to flick on when you get home and want to put your feet up, open the laptop, and have it on in the background while you're checking Facebook and Twitter every 10 minutes.
It takes everything that obstacle course gameshows offer and amplifies it tenfold. It's almost a throwback, but it remains modern and feels new, and I love it for that.
It's not for everyone, sure, but if you're looking for a new show that doesn't keep you up at night with a ridiculous cliffhanger ahead of the next episode (like most Netflix originals), give Ultimate Beastmaster a blast.