Esquire Network's TEAM NINJA WARRIOR Debuts as Most-Watched Premiere in Network History


By: TV News Desk Staff


Esquire Network's new series TEAM NINJA WARRIOR premiering Tuesday, January 19 at 8pm debuted as the most watched series premiere in the network's history. The spin-off series shattered premiere records among Adults 18-49 (157K), Total Viewers (360K), and Men 18-49 (71K) in L3s. In its first week, 1.3M viewers tuned into the premiere episode across all airings.

"Team Ninja Warrior" takes the hit physics-defying obstacle course competition series "American Ninja Warrior," produced by Esquire Network and NBC, to an entirely new level. Featuring some of the greatest ninja competitors from past seasons of "American Ninja Warrior," each one-hour episode features competitors racing head to head in a newly designed, but equally punishing, course that's meant for two.

New episodes of "Team Ninja Warrior" air Tuesdays at 8pm on Esquire Network.


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Hell's Kitchen Season 15 Premiers with 18 Aspiring Chefs


by Al Mellis


18 Aspiring Chefs Battle for a Head Chef Position at BLT Steak at Bally’s Las Vegas

TV Personality Kris Jenner, Hip-Hop Superstar Lil Jon, Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Electronic Dance Musician Steve Aoki and Comedian Bill Engvall Among This Season’s Celebrity Diners

Host, executive producer and award-winning chef and Critics’ Choice Awards nominee Gordon Ramsay fires up a brand-new season of HELL’S KITCHEN when Season 15 premieres Friday, Jan. 15 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. 18 new chefs from across the country will be tested and challenged as Chef Ramsay puts them through a series of grueling challenges and dinner services to prove they have what it takes to win the HELL’S KITCHEN title and a Head Chef position at BLT Steak at Bally’s Las Vegas.

Throughout the season, the contestants will face challenging tasks, including a (rubber) duck hunting competition, preparing dishes for 100 high school students, a catered wedding reception for HELL’S KITCHEN sous chef Andi and the fan-favorite blind taste test challenge.  

Celebrity diners at HELL’S KITCHEN this season include: TV personality Kris Jenner (“Keeping Up with the Kardashians” franchise), rapper Lil Jon, musician/producer Steve Aoki, rapper/actor The Game, musician Flo Rida, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, comedian Bill Engvall, Cesar Millan (“Cesar 911”), dancers from SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE and “Dancing with the Stars,” comedian Terry Fator, burlesque entertainer Dita Von Teese, actor Omar Miller (“Ballers”), actor Sean Carrigan (“The Young and the Restless”) and Olympian swimmers Jessica Hardy and Dominik Meichtry.

In the Season 15 premiere of HELL’S KITCHEN, Chef Gordon Ramsay welcomes the newest bunch of contestants into the kitchen. The steaks are high when the contestants travel to Las Vegas and see the kitchen where this season’s winner will work as a Head Chef: BLT Steak at Bally’s Las Vegas. And, for the first time in HELL’S KITCHEN history, they will compete in that kitchen for the signature dish team challenge. The winning team will earn a ride on the High Roller – the world’s tallest Ferris wheel – and VIP service at Drai’s Nightclub while the losing team prepares a Vegas buffet service, which includes peeling 50 lbs. of shrimp and 1,000 lbs. of potatoes. Later during their first dinner service, one of the teams will fail early on in the service, prompting Chef Ramsay to kick them out of the kitchen.

Below are the 18 chefs competing on this season of HELL’S KITCHEN:

The Red Team (Women) includes:

KRISTIN BARONE                           Age: 27      
Hometown: Chicago, IL                   Occupation: Line Cook
Signature Dish: Grilled Pork Loin with Apricot Mango Puree and Fried Brussel Sprouts and Garlic Aioli

SHERKENNA BUGGS                     Age: 30
Hometown: Grand Junction, TN      Occupation: Personal Chef 
Signature Dish: Crab-Stuffed Blackened Salmon, Mushroom Couscous

MEESE DAVIS                                Age: 25          
Hometown: Upper Darby, PA         Occupation: College Chef
Signature Dish: Pork Loin Chop with Roasted Sweet Potato and Grilled Asparagus

JACKIE FUCHS                               Age: 32         
Hometown: Jersey City, NJ             Occupation: Line Cook
Signature Dish: Seared Scallop with Roasted Corn and Lemon Salsa with Bok Choy and Brown Butter

DANNIE HARRISON                         Age: 30          
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA           Occupation: Line Cook
Signature Dish: Scallops And Vermicelli With Thai Curry Sauce

ARIEL MALONE                              Age: 26          
Hometown: Hackensack, NJ           Occupation: Country Club Chef
Signature Dish: Shashkouka

ASHLEY NICKELL                           Age: 27         
Hometown: Orlando, FL                  Occupation: Chef de Cuisine 
Signature Dish: Ostrich Filet with Blueberry Sauce

MANDA PALOMINO                         Age: 30         
Hometown: Atlantic City, NJ            Occupation: Sous Chef 
Signature Dish: Fried Scallops with Rustic Corn Salad

VANESSA SOLTERO                      Age: 33         
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA          Occupation: Airport Chef 
Signature Dish: Eggplant Involtini Rolls with Sausage Ricotta Stuffing and Marinara Sauce

The Blue Team (Men) includes:

JARED BOBKIN                               Age: 28      
Hometown: Oak Park, MI                Occupation: Line Cook
Signature Dish:   Halibut

FRANK CALA                                  Age: 25         
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY                Occupation: Marine Chef
Signature Dish: Penne alla Vodka with Grilled Chicken

CHAD GELSO                                  Age: 25         
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA           Occupation: Sous Chef
Signature Dish: Confit Cabbage, Celeriac Fondant, Poached pear

EDDIE JASKOWIAK                         Age: 27       
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA           Occupation: Sous Chef
Signature Dish: Hunters Edge, Bambi Tenderloin

HASSAN MUSSELMANI                   Age: 24       
Hometown: Detroit, MI                      Occupation: Catering Executive Chef  
Signature Dish: Pan-Seared Diver Sea Scallops with Roasted Sweet Corn Coulis, Poblano Coulis, Parmesan Risotto and Crispy Capicola

MARK PARAS                                 Age: 27         
Hometown: Anaheim, CA                Occupation: Line Cook
Signature Dish: Black Mussels with Chorizo in a Fennel and Tomato Broth

ALAN PARKER                    Age: 42         
Hometown: Lancaster, PA               Occupation: Sous Chef
Signature Dish: Maple-Glazed Arctic Char

JOE RICCI                                       Age: 31        
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA          Occupation: Sous Chef  
Signature Dish: Veal Braciole with Creamy Polenta and Grilled Broccoli Rabe with Balsamic Red Wine Reduction

KEVIN RIDLON                                Age: 29         
Hometown: Warwick, RI                  Occupation: Culinary Manager 
Signature Dish: Chicken Caesar Piadina

HELL’S KITCHEN is produced by ITV Entertainment in association with A. Smith & Co. Productions. Arthur Smith, Kent Weed and Gordon Ramsay serve as executive producers.

“Like” HELL’S KITCHEN on Facebook at Follow the series on Twitter at @hellskitchenfox, and follow Ramsay at @GordonRamsay. 

About ITV Entertainment:

ITV Entertainment is one of the largest entertainment producers in the U.S. market and a leading force in acquiring, developing and producing non-scripted programming. Its extensive slate of series for a wide range of networks and syndicators includes: HELL’S KITCHEN (FOX), “Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris” (NBC), “The First 48, After The First 48” (A&E), “#RichKids of Beverly Hills” (E!), “Cesar 911” (Nat Geo WILD), “The Chase” (GSN), “Secret Space Escapes” (Science), and “The Bill Cunningham Show” (syndicated).

ITV Entertainment is the flagship production arm of ITV America - the largest independent non-scripted producer in the U.S. - which is a part of ITV Studios. ITV Studios is a world leader in television production and distribution. It has international production centers also include the U.K., Germany, France, the Nordics and Australia. Through its distribution business, ITV Studios Global Entertainment, the company is a distributor of programs to all regions worldwide.

About A. Smith & Co. Productions:
A. Smith & Co. Productions creates some of the most innovative, highly rated, and high-quality programming for the domestic and international television marketplace. The company has produced more than 3,000 hours of award-winning programming - with budgets totaling over one billion dollars across more than 45 broadcast and cable networks. Current productions include HELL’S KITCHEN, “American Ninja Warrior,” “Spartan Race,” “Ellen’s Design Challenge,” “Unsung,”  “Full Throttle Saloon,” “Team Ninja Warrior,” “Container Homes,” and “The Dunk King.” Past hits include "Kitchen Nightmares," "Wizard Wars," "Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura," "UFC Countdown," "Joe Rogan Questions Everything," "Paradise Hotel," "I Survived a Japanese Game Show," "The Swan," "Trading Spaces," "Pros vs. Joes," "Skating with Celebrities," and many others.

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Season-seven record-breakers Isaac Caldiero and Geoff Britten join Team USA for the third annual special

Hollywood Reporter

by Kate Stanhope

NBC is ready for battle.

The network will air the third annual international competition American Ninja Warrior: USA vs. the World on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 8 p.m. ET/PT, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The three-hour special will see teams of five from the U.S., Europe and Japan compete in Las Vegas on the first three stages of Mt. Midoriyama, the famed four-stage finals course of American Ninja Warrior.

Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila will host, and Kristine Leahy will co-host.

Team USA will include series champion and $1 million winner Isaac Caldiero, as well as his season-seven runner-up Geoff Britten. Series alums Kevin Bull, Drew Drechsel, Ian Dory and Joe Moravsky will also help Team USA try to reclaim the top prize after losing to Team Europe last year.

Team Europe will include three returning competitors — France’s Sean McColl, Italy’s Stefano Ghisolfi and England’s Tim Shieff, a top performer in the U.K. version of Ninja Warrior. They will be joined by Tim Champion of England and Alexander Mars, the winner of the Swedish version of the show.

Coming off a poor showing last year, Team Japan will consist of returning veterans Ryo Matachi and Yusuke Morimoto and new members Kenji Takahashi, Masashi Hioki and Tomohiro Kawaguchi. All five are veterans of Sasuke, the Japanese version of  Ninja Warrior.

American Ninja Warrior is executive produced by A. Smith & Co. Productions’ founders Arthur Smith and Kent Weed (Hell’s Kitchen), along with Brian Richardson and Anthony Storm. The series is co-produced by Esquire Network and NBC.

American Ninja Warrior has proven a reliable summer performer for NBC, which has already renewed the competition series. In addition, Esquire Network ordered the spinoff Team Ninja Warrior to series in May.

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Competitors Revealed for Season 2 of HGTV's ELLEN'S DESIGN CHALLENGE


Fans of ELLEN'S DESIGN CHALLENGE, the successful furniture design competition series that was first conceptualized by television icon and entertainment pioneer Ellen DeGeneres, will get their first look at the 10 talented season two competitors during the one-hour special Ellen's Design Challenge: Meet the Cast. Premiering at 11 p.m. ET/PT as part of HGTV's all-premiere New Year's Day lineup, the special will showcase: Vivian Beer, Manchester, N.H.; Bradley Bowers, Miami, Fla.; Julie Browning Bova, Indianapolis, Ind.; Miles Endo, Providence, R.I.; McKenzie Gibson, Providence, R.I.; Kyle Huntoon, Detroit, Mich.; Alexis Moran, Orinda, Calif.; Sef Pinney, Los Angeles; Melissa Rivera Torres, Pleasant Hill, Calif. and Dave Yale, San Jose, Calif. The special also will encore on Sunday, January 17, at 11 p.m. ET/PT.

The highly anticipated Ellen's Design Challenge, which premieres on Monday, January 18, at 9 p.m. ET/PT, will showcase the competitors as they sketch, design and build innovative furniture to avoid elimination. In a season filled with countless surprises, the finalists will be tasked with such challenges as designing furniture for the greenrooms at The Ellen DeGeneres Show. At the end of the season, the last competitor standing will receive a $100,000 cash prize courtesy of and see their work featured in HGTV Magazine.

The contestants participating in season two of Ellen's Design Challenge are:

Vivian Beer | Manchester, N.H.

Vivian Beer is a furniture designer and business owner in Manchester, New Hampshire. She says her style is modern and that she loves to "push the envelope" with her work by using industrial materials such as concrete and auto body paint. She says she believes her academic background in the Fine Arts allows her to find inspiration in different places, including the arts and crafts community, architecture and even car design.

Bradley Bowers | Miami, Fla.

Bradley Bowers, a furniture designer and business owner in Miami, says his ultimate design goal is to showcase the innate beauty of the materials he loves, including paper, latex, wood and fiberglass. He describes his design style as "Materialistic" because he is "intrigued by the power and the knowledge that objects possess."

Julie Browning Bova | Indianapolis, Ind.

Indianapolis-based interior designer and furniture designer, Julie Browning Bova has worked in the design business with clients for the past 30 years and has been designing for manufacturers since 2011. Julie, who says she likes to balance eclectic and classic design elements, defines her design style as traditional with an EQUESTRIAN influence. Most of her pieces incorporate leather straps, carved wood or decorative elements that might be found on a saddle.

Miles Endo | Providence, R.I.

Miles Endo was born in Tokyo and raised in Hawaii. As the son of two artists, he says he was drawn to creative pursuits at an early age. He describes his design style as modern with a Japanese influence and enjoys working with different types of woods and metals, such as steel, bronze, brass and cast iron. Miles specializes in custom furniture, culinary serving boards and Taiko drums, a Japanese percussion instrument.

McKenzie Gibson | Providence, R.I.

McKenzie is a furniture designer from Providence, R.I. She describes her design style as avant-garde and does not limit herself to traditional furniture norms. Her work has been described as very playful and McKenzie says she wants people to touch and interact with her designs. In addition to working with woods and metals, she says she loves to incorporate various types of rope into her designs.

Kyle Huntoon | Detroit, Mich.

Kyle Huntoon, a fourth generation woodworker, is a furniture designer and business owner in Detroit, Michigan. He says he is inspired by the clean geometric lines of mid-century modern design and loves to incorporate traditional joinery techniques in his works. He uses a variety of American hardwoods in his designs and specifically likes to work with black walnut - his favorite trees from his great-grandparent's farm.

Alexis Moran | Orinda, Calif.

Alexis Moran, a furniture designer and business owner in Orinda, California, describes her design style as modern, but acknowledges that most modern furniture lacks personality. She says she strives to infuse bold character into her designs and loves to showcase special aspects of each piece of material, whether it's natural or industrial. She finds a lot of beauty in natural materials and composition and typically works in wood and concrete. She also works in glass, metals, and plastics.

Sef Pinney| Los Angeles, Calif.

Sef Pinney, an L.A.-based furniture designer and business owner, characterizes his design style as modern with Danish and Asian influences. He says he prefers to work with any type of beautiful wood and veneers, as well as industrial materials such as aerospace plywood, aluminum, steel and titanium. Sef says his strength as a designer is his ability to envision and execute complicated, elegant pieces.

Melissa Rivera Torres| Pleasant Hill, Calif.

Melissa Rivera Torres, a furniture designer and business owner born and raised in Mexico, describes her style as modern industrial. She says she loves to use bold colors and fun materials that allow her pieces stand out and make people smile. Melissa says she enjoys working with stainless steel, wood, PVC, Plexiglas, acrylic and aluminum and isn't afraid to try unconventional ideas - she once transformed a 28,000ft warehouse into the stage for Hawaii's first ever Fashion Month.

Dave Yale | San Jose, Calif.

Dave Yale, a furniture designer from San Jose, describes his style as modern and says he loves geometry, working in 3D design programs and is a master at CAD/3D modeling. He says he is influenced by mid-century modern design and is currently designing a line that infuses classic forms with a wild sense of fun, including unexpected scale, color and materials.

Ellen's Design Challenge is produced by Ellen's production company, A Very Good Production, and A. Smith & Co. in association with Telepictures. The executive producers for the series are Ellen, Jeff Kleeman of A Very Good Production, and ARTHUR Smith, Kent Weed, Ian Mallahan and Jonathan Singer of A. Smith & Co.

ABOUT HGTV: America's leading home and lifestyle brand, HGTV features a top-rated cable network that is distributed to more than 96 million U.S. households and, the premier source for home-related inspiration, instruction and entertainment, attracts more than six million people each month. The brand also includes the HGTVHOME(TM) consumer products line which showcases exclusive collections of paint, flooring, furniture, plants, fabrics and other home-oriented products. For more information on HGTV HOME branded products and to find a retailer, go to In partnership with Hearst Magazines, the HGTV Magazine, a home and lifestyle publication, is currently available on newsstands. Viewers can become fans of HGTV and interact with other home improvement enthusiasts through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn.,HGTV is owned by Scripps Networks Interactive, Inc. (SNI).

ABOUT TELEPICTURES: Telepictures is an industry-leading and Emmy(R) Award-winning producer of innovative, multiplatform advertiser-friendly television series and digital content for the first-run syndication, cable and digital marketplace. Programs produced by Telepictures have won 90 Emmy(R) Awards in the last 19 years, including Outstanding Talk Show or Outstanding Talk Show Host for 16 of the last 18 years. Current Telepictures series include Crime Watch Daily, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Ellen's Design Challenge, Extra, Judge Mathis, The People's Court, The Real, TMZ, TMZ LIVE and TMZ Sports. Upcoming programs include Heads Up!, Hello Goodbye and South of Wilshire (January-February 2016 preview on select FOX Television Stations). For more information about Telepictures programming, please visit

ABOUT A VERY GOOD PRODUCTION: A Very Good Production (AVGP) is the Emmy(R)-winning television and film production company of producer/writer/actor/host Ellen DeGeneres. Based at Warner Bros. Television Group (WBTVG) with an exclusive multiyear deal, AVGP produces the nationally Syndicated daytime talk program THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW and develops television projects for all divisions of WBTVG, including scripted and unscripted primetime series for network and cable, as well as additional Syndicated fare. AVGP's slate of television projects includes the upcoming animated family comedy Green Eggs and Ham for Netflix; the forthcoming unscripted variety/comedy series Little Big Shots and unscripted relationship series First Dates for NBC; the unscripted design competition program Ellen's Design Challenge for HGTV; Heads Up!, a fast-paced game show debuting in 2016 on HLN and based on the wildly popular game and app of the same name from The Ellen DeGeneres Show; and Hello Goodbye, an upcoming unscripted series for the Travel Channel highlighting heart-warming - and sometimes heart-wrenching - stories of love, sorrow, family and friendship from travelers of all cultures and walks of life. Jeff Kleeman serves as President of A Very Good Production.

ABOUT A. SMITH & CO. PRODUCTIONS: A. Smith & Co. Productions creates some of the most innovative, highly rated, and high-quality programming for the domestic and international television marketplace. The company has produced more than 3,000 hours of award-winning programming - with budgets totaling over one billion dollars across more than 45 broadcast and cable networks. Current productions include "Hell's Kitchen," "American Ninja Warrior," "Spartan Race," "Ellen's Design Challenge," "Unsung," "Full Throttle Saloon," "Team Ninja Warrior," "Container Homes," and "The Dunk King." Past hits include "Kitchen Nightmares," "Wizard Wars," "Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura," "UFC Countdown," "Joe Rogan Questions Everything," "Paradise Hotel," "I Survived a Japanese Game Show," "The Swan," "Trading Spaces," "Pros vs. Joes," "Skating with Celebrities," and many others. For more information, visit


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Esquire Network to Debut TEAM NINJA WARRIOR, 1/19



The new spin-off series will feature the world's best ninja warrior competitors racing head-to head in teams of three in a newly designed, but equally punishing, dual running course that incorporates speed, superhuman agility, skill and - because the competitor's paths literally cross as they are racing through the obstacles - a whole new strategy to the game. Hosted by comedian Matt Iseman, former NFL player and sports analyst Akbar Gbajabiamila, and Fox Sports reporter Alex Curry, the eight action-packed episodes of TEAM NINJA WARRIOR, will premiere January 19 at 8/7c, exclusively on Esquire Network.

For the first time in ninja history, the mother of all obstacle courses is now built for two. In Esquire Network's TEAM NINJA WARRIOR, America's fittest athletes will form 24 squads of three, consisting of two males and one female, for an epic sprint against each other. In the first 6 one-hour episodes of TEAM NINJA WARRIOR, four different teams will see their teammates individually race directly against the opposing team's players through the brutal obstacle course.

Each individual win gives the team more points, and at the end of the episode, the two teams left standing will face-off, with the winner of that final relay showdown moving on to the TEAM NINJA WARRIOR finals.

All competitors will be running, jumping, vaulting and rolling through an amped-up version of the world's most intense obstacle course, vying for a cash prize and big bragging rights. From leaping off the "Sonic Swing," and hanging on for dear life on the "Log Grip," to crossing paths and out-maneuvering each other on the "Dancing Stones" to finally, racing up the redesigned "Warped Wall," every episode will feature formidable new obstacles, each harder than the last. And, in the end - only one team will be crowned TEAM NINJA WARRIOR champions.

TEAM NINJA WARRIOR is executive-produced by A. Smith & Co. Productions' founders ARTHUR Smith and Kent Weed (Hell's Kitchen, Unsung, Ellen's Design Challenge), along with Brian Richardson as executive producer. The new series is based on the AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR format from Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Inc., which is a co-production between Esquire Network and NBC.

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Ellen’s Design Challenge’ Returns to HGTV


Television icon and entertainment pioneer Ellen DeGeneres will return to HGTV with a second season of her top-rated furniture competition series, Ellen’s Design Challenge. Premiering on Monday, January 18, at 9 p.m. ET/PT, the highly anticipated season will showcase ten competitors as they sketch, design and build innovative furniture to avoid elimination. The contestants, who will be introduced to viewers on New Year’s Day in the one-hour special Ellen’s Design Challenge: Meet the Cast, will be tasked with such challenges as designing furniture for the greenrooms at TheEllen DeGeneres Show. At the end of the season, the last competitor standing will receive a $100,000 cash prize courtesy of and see their work featured in HGTV Magazine.

“I am so excited for season two of Ellen’s Design Challenge,” said Ellen. “I promise this season is going to be bigger, better and armoirier.”

“Ellen’s signature style and wit make her relatable and so much fun to watch on HGTV,” laughed Kathleen Finch, Chief Programming Officer, HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel. “Ellen’s Design Challenge lets fans see her like they never have before—expressing a personal passion for home and furniture design.”

During each episode, the competitors will face design challenges that inspire their creativity and, since the clock will be ticking, they will be paired with an expert HGTV or DIY Network carpenter to help them complete the task at hand. The experts include Chip Wade, Matt Blashaw, Jeff Devlin, Matt Muenster, Karl Champley, Brooks Utley, Stephen Zimpel and Ali Azhar. Each contestant also will have access to a “build team” and a large workshop.

The weekly challenges will be judged by Cliff Fong, a twenty-year veteran interior designer and owner of the interior design firm Matt Blacke Inc., and Christiane Lemieux, executive creative director of Special guest judges will join the panel each week. The guest judges include Sean Yashar, owner of interior design firm The Culture Creative; interior designer Peter Dunham; Wendy Goodman, design editor for New York Magazine; furniture and industrial designer Karim Rashid; Adam Blackman, owner of furniture gallery Blackman Cruz; Thomas Lavin, owner of Thomas Lavin home furnishings; Rodman Primack, Executive Director of Design Miami; and Mallery Roberts Morgan, Los Angeles correspondent for Architectural Digest France.

More series information, including a sneak peek video, the inside scoop from the series carpenters and a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, is available at During the series run, an online companion series will go deeper into the judges’ deliberations as they make the difficult elimination decisions each week.

Ellen’s Design Challenge is produced by Ellen’s production company, A Very Good Production, and A. Smith & Co. in association with Telepictures. The executive producers for the series are Ellen, Jeff Kleeman of A Very Good Production, and Arthur Smith, Kent Weed, Ian Mallahan and Jonathan Singer of A. Smith & Co.

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WE tv orders A. Smith & Co.’s “Basketball Moms”


By Daniele Alcinii

AMC Networks-owned cable channel WE tv has ordered the tentatively titled series Basketball Moms from Los Angeles-based A. Smith & Co. Productions.

The hour-long series will shadow five Houston-area mothers whose sons play on rival youth basketball teams and dream of being drafted into the professional ranks of the NBA.

The series will feature a range of characters that includes the single mom, the “pot stirrer,” the coach’s wife and the party girl who clash and bond over their friendships and shared dreams of success for their respective sons.

Executive producers on the series include Arthur Smith, Kent Weed, Frank Sinton and Christmas Rini.

“Any show focused on parents, kids and a shared activity has the right ingredients for high drama. Add in the potential of an NBA career and the transformational impact of that on both player and family and you take things to a whole other level,” said WE tv president Marc Juris in a statement.

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Esquire orders American Ninja Warrior spin-off to series

 Entertainment Weekly

By: Natalie Abrams

Esquire has given a series order to American Ninja Warrior spin-off Team Ninja Warrior, EW has learned exclusively.

Hosted by Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila, Team Ninja Warrior features some of the greatest ninja competitors from past seasons going head-to-head on a timed dual course that tests competitors’ endurance and speed.

Here’s the deal: The top Ninjas from around the country will form 24 teams of three for a race against the clock and each other. Over the eight episodes, competitors will run three timed rounds of obstacle course runs. The teams with the fastest cumulative times in each episode will advance to the finale, where one team will be crowned Team Ninja Warrior.

Among the warriors competing for a big cash prize and bragging rights: Brent Steffensen, “The Mighty” Kacy Catanzaro, Flip Rodriguez, Brian Arnold, Joe Moravsky, Jessie Graff, Kevin Bull, Lance Pekus and Geoff Britten, who recently became the first competitor to be crowned an American Ninja Warrior.

The series hails from American Ninja Warrior producers and A. Smith & Co. Productions’ founders Arthur Smith and Kent Weed (Hell’s Kitchen, Unsung, Ellen’s Design Challenge), who will executive-produce alongside Brian Richardson.

 “American Ninja Warrior has become a pop culture phenomenon and it’s exciting for us at Esquire Network to continue to take the franchise to new heights,” said Matt Hanna, EVP of original programming at Esquire. “We’ve assembled the top competitors who dominated past seasons, constructed a course with the most unforgiving obstacles, and are presenting a new dual run format that is certain to deliver the same addictive, awe-inspiring reactions as the original American Ninja Warrior.”

Team Ninja Warrior, which will be filmed in Long Beach, CA from Oct. 21-23, is slated to debut in early 2016 on Esquire. 

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‘American Ninja Warrior’ Crowns First Ever Winner After 7 Seasons

Variety 2014

By: Laura Prudom

After seven seasons and thousands of competitors, NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” finally crowned a winner, after not one, but two competitors completed the fourth and final stage of the challenge for the first time in the show’s history.

Since the series began in 2009, no athlete had ever progressed past the third stage of the competition, but in the season seven finale, both Geoff Britten and Isaac Caldiero finished the seemingly impossible course. Britten completed Stage 4 first, but Caldiero subsequently beat his time by 3.6 seconds, enabling him to win the challenge and the $1 million grand prize.

The series is based on Japanese competition series “Sasuke,” which has run for 31 seasons since 1997. Only four competitors have ever completed the course and achieved “total victory” in the Japanese version of the show. The “American Ninja Warrior” season finale was held in Las Vegas, and the course consisted of four stages and 23 total obstacles. The competitors had to successfully complete all three stages before tackling the ultimate Stage 4 obstacle, Mt. Midoriyama, which stands at 8-stories tall with a 75-foot rope climb. Britten and Caldiero had 30 seconds to scale the rope and hit the buzzer.

“Winning this event always seemed impossible,” Caldiero said. “As the first American Ninja Warrior I want to use this opportunity to inspire the world to find your impossible and conquer it.”

Caldiero is a 33-year-old rock climber and busboy who honed his skills by building replicas of Stage 3 in his back yard, while Britten is a 36-year-old sports cameraman.

“American Ninja Warrior” is executive produced by A. Smith & Co. Productions founders Arthur Smith and Kent Weed (“Hell’s Kitchen,” “Wizard Wars,” “Ellen’s Design Challenge”), along with Brian Richardson and Anthony Storm.

An encore of the finale airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the Esquire Network.

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NBC Orders ‘Spartan Race’ Competition Series From ‘American Ninja Warrior’ Producer

Deadline Hollywood 2014

Written by: Denise Petski

NBC is teaming up with Spartan Race and A. Smith & Co Prods, producers of the network’s summer hit American Ninja Warrior, on new competition series Spartan Race (working title).

Described as the ultimate in team competition, Spartan Race (wt) features friends, families and co-workers working together and pushing each other to their mental and physical limits as they race across specially designed Spartan courses engineered to test their determination, endurance, and will. Teams of five — comprised of two men, two women, and an elite Spartan athlete — will battle over mud, water, and fire for a chance to win a large cash prize. Casting is currently underway.

“This will be the definitive team competition,”… “an action-oriented show aimed at families”, executive producer Arthur Smith told Deadline. We’re currently working on building the quintessential course, with an emphasis on team building. You will only be successful if your entire team is successful.” Smith said details are still being worked out, but “the show and the course is unlike anything that’s been done before.”

Spartan Race is the world’s leading obstacle race company with more than 1 million global participants and more than 120 events in 20+ countries. A. Smith & Co’s Kent Weed will exec produce with Smith, along with Anthony Storm.

American Ninja Warrior, a strong summer ratings performer for NBC, was recently renewed for a fifth season.

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