American Ninja Warrior Is Exactly What Sports Should Be

Vice Sports

Written By:

Josh Tucker

In 1997, the Tokyo Broadcasting System began airing Sasuke, a series of three-hour, 100-participant obstacle course specials. These self-contained specials were shot in Yokohama, Japan on a studio set dubbed Mount Midoriyama—a sadistic monument built of scaffolding, ropes, and foam pads. Contestants made their way through increasingly difficult stages of unyielding, surrealist obstacles in the hopes of achieving "Total Victory" over Mount Midoriyama.

Olympic athletes, MMA fighters, pro wrestlers, celebrities, entertainers, comedians, and hundreds of normal folks who are badass at climbing up cargo nets have all taken part in Sasuke. The U.S. version of the show, now known as American Ninja Warrior, has been airing since 2006. Regardless of continent, almost everyone who competes on the show fails. The show's appeal is rooted in this fact.

As is the case with Sasuke, American Ninja Warrior is an exaggeration of itself. The presentation is big. The course is big. The announcers are big. The music sounds like John Williams scored an episode of Nickelodeon's GUTS, and the whole thing borders on unabashedly cheesy. And, for the most part, it all works beautifully. Executive Producer Kent Weed explained "Whether it's through production value or lighting or staging we dress it up and make it look good, like a big event, because people like to watch big events and that's something that you feel like you don't want to miss as a viewer."

Still, despite the inevitable branding jargon, there's an earnestness about the show's athleticism. The course is incredibly difficult and unforgiving. Those that are adept at it are excellent athletes, many of whom put in countless hours practicing the variety of skills that running each specific obstacle course entails. Every run is a tense, physical spectacle. In six seasons, no one has achieved Total Victory.

"What we did is we concentrated on the sports aspect of it," says Weed. "And the human element of it, and, you know, creating basically sports entertainment."

The human element is unmistakable in the production. Given the obscure nature of the athletics—regardless of the hours we may have put in during recess, obstacle course culture is hardly drilled into us as children—the show focuses heavily on building characters and crafting narratives around them.

"We're true to sports at its core, but, you know, we create stories around humanity that people can identify with, and there are great success stories that make for heros and heroines out of it," says Weed.

The show's storytelling is over-the-top and routinely sappy, but it succeeds in providing a reason to care about each unique individual bounding off a mini-trampoline. Some of these characters will be with us through multiple episodes. Some of them will sadly depart somewhere after that mini-trampoline leap and before they get the chance to wedge themselves into something called the Jumping Spider. Despite the fact that everybody fails, despite the countless fingers seen slipping slowly off of military anti-ergonomic handholds and the countless bodies flailing into watery pits, the show maintains an overwhelmingly positive tone.

Co-host Jenn Brown does an admirable job handling a rugged interview beat. "In the cities, we have like 125 people; I interview every one of them." A good portion of her subjects are soaking wet and disappointed. "It's really hard to ask over and over, 'What went wrong? What would you do differently?'"

"I always try to give a positive spin at the end, to give them 'Hey, look, this is extremely difficult and you made it this far and look at the thousands of competitors who didn't make it this far. And you should be proud of that.'"

The entire atmosphere is more genial than cutthroat. "It is a really amazing camaraderie, and community, between the athletes," Brown says. "It really is something special and neat to be there down when we're taping and to just see other people giving advice and giving techniques. And after someone goes out, and they're done for the season, they still go back and they're like 'Hey, here's what I did wrong, and here's what I think you should do differently.'"

Brown comes from a gymnastics family. She played softball at the University of Florida, where she received an academic scholarship and graduated with honors. She's about as qualified as you could possibly be for a job hosting a TV program that is half sporting event, half reality show. "I look at it like it's another sport"," she says.

"Everybody has to submit a video to be on the show. I asked casting if I could have access to all the videos, of all the competitors that we were going to see run in that city, so that I was really was familiar with their storyline," says Brown. "You can get a good idea of what their story is, and their skill level, and all of that."

Those storylines are what made the sixth and most recent season of American Ninja Warrior its most compelling. Kacy Catanzaro played no small role.

In season five, Catanzaro had a good run. She handled the early obstacles, and beasted through a momentum disaster on the Floating Chains only to fail in jumping from a mini-trampoline to something called the Nunchuks. That performance, in addition to her gymnastics bona fides and her training with American Ninja Warrior star Brent Steffensen made her a known commodity, but no one could have predicted what would happen when she came back.

Before American Ninja Warrior season six, no woman had ever finished so much as a qualifying stage. Only stuntwoman Chie Nishimura had even finished a Sasuke stage.

Catanzaro crushed the Dallas qualifying course while the booth screamed in disbelief. "What you see is what you get there," Brown confirms. "It was bananas. That's the only way I can describe it." Catanzaro became the first woman to make it up the 14-foot Warped Wall—a feat visually comparable to Spud Webb's 1986 dunk contest masterpiece—and the first to complete a stage, qualifying for the City Finals. There was much rejoicing. "It was so amazing to be on the sidelines. And everybody's out of their chair, screaming."

Michelle Warnky followed suit in the St. Louis Qualifiers. Not to be outdone, rock climber Meagan Martin did the same in Denver. While Warnky and Martin would both be awarded wildcard spots to the National Finals, both fell short in their City Finals attempts.

Capping off a banner year for women on the show, Catanzaro was absolutely incredible in Dallas. After taking a post-cargo net moment to yell "I love you guys! Thank you!" to the cheering crowd, she wrecked shop.

On the Ring Toss, she missed a peg, and yoked herself back up by one arm, with no visible effort. She climbed the Warped Wall on her first attempt. When she cleared the Salmon Ladder, a sadistic exercise that requires the person climbing it to actually carry their own rung in a series of swinging pullup leaps, it was apparent that she was serious. She looked troubled on the Swinging Frames, but when she realized she couldn't reach across the gap between frames, she made what seemed like an impossible desperation leap. And then, my God, the Pole Grasper. She breezed through the Spider Climb, reached the top of the tower, and secured a spot in the National Finals by repeatedly mashing the kind of giant button that exists only on shows like this.

At the National Finals, Catanzaro made it through three obstacles before her limbs, or lack of longer ones, finally caught up with her. She hit the trampoline well and fully extended in the air, but her arms didn't didn't reach the sides of the Jumping Spider, and she tumbled into the pool. Her long run was over.

But Kacy Catanzaro brought us something that felt good. She reminded us that it's OK for sports to feel good—in fact, that's supposed to be the point. There is no way to quantify this, but she may be the the best thing that's happened in the world of obstacle course television since Wesley "Two Scoops" Berry ran his record-breaking Gauntlet on American Gladiators. People started paying attention.

Ellen Degeneres, whose show airs on a rival network, took such a liking to the series that she worked with American Ninja Warrior to have a course built in the parking lot of her studio so she could run celebrities through it. Allison Janney's run was obligatory television.

'We want to make it entertaining for a broad number of people to watch," says Weed. "Sports can be polarizing. But when you introduce the human element and you introduce people that the audience can relate to, then it broadens it out."

"The show's only going to get bigger. We had, last year, at the end of August, we had four thousand applicants apply for the show. At the end of the summer this year we had forty-thousand applicants. So, it's gone ten-fold from where it was a year ago. Everybody is interested in this. Everybody wants to do it."

That six seasons of competitors have failed won't stop the audience from watching another wave of hopefuls try for a seventh time. In fact, it may only stoke their hopes that a hero, a true American Ninja Warrior, will rise.

"Obviously it's sad to not have someone get Total Victory, but it makes me so excited for next season," Jenn Brown says, maybe without realizing that she's encapsulated the hook.

Weed closes the pitch like only a producer could. "We thought someone was going to do it this season, and it didn't happen. Every year we go in thinking it's going to happen. We're very hopeful. I think the audience is there, too. 'Someone's going to do it this year. Someone's going to do it.' I believe someone is going to do it, and I believe it's going to happen soon. I believe it's going to happen next season, I really do."

Whether you believe him or not is mostly beside the point. The show really isn't about winning, anyway. On Sasuke, only three contestants have achieved Total Victory over Mount Midoriyama. But Japan keeps watching anyway. So will we. 

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Syfy's 'Wizard Wars' Gets Six-Episode Pickup (Exclusive)

Hollywood Reporter

By Lesley Goldberg

Presto! Syfy has conjured up more Wizard Wars.

The NBCUniversal-owned cable network has doubled up on the reality competition series featuring judges Penn & Teller, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Following a successful first run of six episodes, the cabler has picked up a half-dozen more, with the series set to return in January.

The series, which hails from A. Smith & Co. (Hell's Kitchen, American Ninja Warrior), centers on young magicians trying to impress judges Penn Jillette and Teller with original magic using only a random assortment of everyday objects. 

Since its Aug. 19 debut, Wizard Wars has been a solid performer. Factoring in seven days of delayed viewing, the premiere collected 1.3 million total viewers and has grown week-to-week. Its first season ranks as Syfy's No. 1 unscripted series of the year among men.

Wizard Wars is one of a handful of magic-themed series currently on TV. It joins The CW's Masters of Illusion and Penn & Teller: Fool Us, as well as a pair on National Geographic.

Wizard Wars is exec produced by Arthur Smith, Kent Weed, Frank Sinton, Tim Eagan, Jillette and Teller.

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A "Hell" of a Job

The Eyeopener

By Emily Blatta on Sept. 17th 2014

Working alongside celebrity host and chef Gordon Ramsay can get pretty hot.

Arthur Smith, executive producer of Hell’s Kitchen and Ryerson radio and television arts grad, is back for the show’s 13th season premiere.

“We knew we had something special when we started,” said Smith. “Hell’s Kitchen is unlike any other reality series.”

The show is a reality TV cooking competition set up in an intense culinary academy run by Gordon Ramsay.

The Emmy-nominated show first aired in 2005, and has since been considered one of the most popular cooking shows on TV.

While some reality shows might seem unrealistic, Smith said that Hell’s Kitchen is always natural and never scripted. “The contestants are authentic; we get real chefs and real people.”

After launching his career at CBC sports and producing three Olympic games, he went on to work with Dick Clark Productions and FOX Sports.

In 2000, Smith and his friend Kent Weed started their own production company, A. Smith & Co. Productions, now one of the leading production titles in North America, bringing Hell’s Kitchen to the top.

“I knew I wanted to work in the entertainment industry, and Ryerson gave me the confidence I needed,” Smith said. “[Ryerson] was an opportunity to experiment”, said Smith, who continues is test out new ideas in the show. After 13 seasons of Hell’s Kitchen, he said the most important thing is to “keep trying to re-invent.”

For prospective students looking to break into the industry, Smith offered a piece of advice, “Take the best guess of what you want to do and focus on it.” Smith said that many kids will take any job, but it’s imperative to set goals and stick to them.

“But a good show is like a good meal,” he said, “You have to have all the right ingredients.”

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Arthur Smith logo


Joe Weinstock, formerly of Discovery Channel, will join reality production powerhouse A. Smith & Co. Productions as senior vice president of development. In his new position with the company, Joe will play a critical role in developing the company slate while cultivating new formats under the A. Smith & Co. banner.

A veteran of creating unscripted entertainment for independent production companies and networks alike, Weinstock will bring his years of experience to bear in developing reality hits that A. Smith & Co. Productions is known for.

“Joe is a proven executive with an exemplary history of creating hit shows across multiple genres,” said Arthur Smith, CEO of A. Smith & Co. Productions. “With numerous new projects in development for a spectrum of networks, we are very proud to have Joe join our team at one of the most prolific times in company history.”

In his role at A. Smith & Co., Weinstock will play in integral role in the development of both existing and future A. Smith & Co. programming across broadcast and cable. Prior to joining the company, Weinstock was senior director of development and an executive producer at Discovery Channel, where he oversaw and/or developed a slate including “Porter Ridge,” “Game of Stones,” “Kodiak,” “Bluegrass Boys,” and “Highway to Sell.” Before joining Discovery, Joe was vice president of production at Gurney Productions, where he worked as co-executive producer on a robust slate that included "Auction Hunters," "Duck Dynasty," "Hollywood Treasure," "Monster Man," "American Guns," "American Digger," “Haunted Collector,” and several shows for the fan favorite “Shark Week.” Prior to Gurney, Weinstock was senior director of original series for Spike. As a key member of the development team there, Weinstock worked as both executive in charge of production and producer on “Auction Hunters," "Jesse James is a Dead Man," "Deadliest Warrior," "Manswers," "Pros vs. Joes," "DEA," "1000 Ways to Die,” and the pilot of “Bar Rescue.”

Weinstock joins A. Smith & Co. during one of the most dynamic times in company history, as the company is currently developing more than 20 projects across both broadcast and cable. Projects in development include the recently announced project for HGTV, “Ellen’s Design Challenge,” which is being produced in conjunction with daytime TV personality Ellen DeGeneres. Currently, A. Smith & Co. series are performing exceptionally for their respective networks, with the broadcast stalwart “Hell’s Kitchen” returning for a thirteenth season on Fox September 10th, “Wizard Wars,” a new magic competition series that features famed magicians Penn & Teller premiering on Syfy, and “American Ninja Warrior” – fresh off a renewal for a seventh season – topping broadcast ratings every Monday evening on NBC. In addition to the company’s broadcast programming, the cable darling “Unsung” just received renewal for a ninth season on TV One, and now holds the distinction of being the longest-running show on the network.


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A Smith Logo

Los Angeles, Calif. – August 20, 2014 – Reality production powerhouse A. Smith & Co. Productions today promoted long-time staffers Katie Hash to vice president of development, and Steve Miller to head of creative services.

Combined, the two have spent over two decades working within film and reality formats, and will continue to drive the company forward to further develop and hone the programming that A. Smith & Co. Productions is well known for.

“During their time here, both Katie and Steve have continually demonstrated their passion for creating quality programming that keeps our audiences coming back for more,” said Arthur Smith, CEO of A. Smith & Co. Productions. “We’re proud to recognize their achievements with expanded roles and increased responsibility, and look forward to their continued success at the company for years to come.”

In her previous role of Director of Development, Katie managed the development pipeline at A. Smith & Co., developing new show concepts, managing the thousands of pitches that come through A. Smith & Co. on an annual basis, as well as working closely with more than 40 different networks that the company maintains close-knit relationships with. Over the course of her tenure, Hash has been directly responsible for the development of several A. Smith & Co. programs, including “Wizard Wars” (Syfy) and “Monster Survival Guide” (NatGeo), as well as a handful of other development and casting deals currently in negotiation at a number of cable networks.

As head of creative services, Miller is responsible for creating sizzle tapes and reels for A. Smith & Co. shows, as well as directing the graphics department and working in tandem with the development team. Previous to his role at A. Smith & Co., Miller worked as director of on air promotion at Fox Movie Channel, where he oversaw the restructuring and creation of the on air promo department, while guiding the creative launch and look of the new network. Before Fox, Miller served as executive vice president of audio visual at Intralink Film, where he was the head of the audio visual department and responsible for the production of theatrical trailers, television spots, and company campaigns, with films such as “Star Trek,” “The Book of Eli,” and “Angels & Demons.” Prior to Intralink, Miller was executive vice president at New Line Cinema and MGM/United Artists, respectively.


 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 2,000 hours of award-winning programming. Current productions include such hits as ”Hell’s Kitchen,” “Kitchen Nightmares,” “American Ninja Warrior,” “Ellen’s Design Challenge,” “Unsung,” “Full Throttle Saloon,” “Celebrity Crime Files,” “Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura,” “Too Young to Marry?,” “Save Our Business,” “UFC Countdown,” “Joe Rogan Questions Everything,” “Divorce Hotel” and many others. A. Smith & Co.’s library of programming includes hit shows such as “Paradise Hotel,” “I Survived a Japanese Game Show,” “The Swan,” “Trading Spaces,” “Pros vs. Joes” and “Skating with Celebrities.” A. Smith & Co. has developed and produced the No. 1 show in America 25 times and a Top 10 show more than 200 times, producing programs with budgets totaling approximately one billion dollars for more than 42 broadcast and cable networks.


Contact:               Brad Stapleton

                                Beck Media & Marketing



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'Celebrity Crime Files' Season Three, With New Narrator Ice-T, to Premiere Monday, September 8 on TV One


Written By Sara Bibel

August 20th, 2014


--Ten-Episode Series Explores Controversial Celebrity Crimes Involving: Chris Lighty, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson Jr.,Ray Nagin, Shakir “Shake” Stewart, Medgar Evers, Huey P. Newton, Riddick Bowe, Ray Nagin and More--

August 20, 2014 – Silver Spring, MD – TV One, which entertains, informs and inspires Black adult viewers, today announced that its popular investigative docu-series Celebrity Crime Files returns for a riveting third season Monday, September 8 at 10 PM/ET. This season, acclaimed rapper and actor Ice-T joins the show as narrator. In its most captivating episodes yet, CelebrityCrime Files delves into the scandals, misdeeds and mysterious deaths of prominent politicians, athletes, athletes, entertainers, executives and civil rights activists.

 “Ice-T’s iconic voice has catapulted him to an internationally recognized performer and actor,” said D’Angela Proctor, SVP of Programming and Production for TV One. “This season, his voice will lend a deeper look at crimes and indiscretions of public figures from this decade and decades past, while also showing a side of history that is rarely explored in the books.” 

The series is produced for TV One by A. Smith and Co. Productions. Executive Producers for the series are Arthur Smith, Frank Sinton and Anthony Storm. Lamar Chase serves as Producer for the network. Executive In Charge of production for TV One is Robyn Greene Arrington.

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By Amanda Kondolojy

18 Aspiring Chefs Vie For a Head Chef Position at a Gordon Ramsay Restaurant

Host, executive producer and award-winning chef Gordon Ramsay fires up a brand-new season of HELL’S KITCHEN with a special, two-hour Season 13 premiere airing Wednesday, Sept. 10 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Once again, 18 new chefs from all walks of life will be tested like never before as Chef Ramsay puts them through a series of grueling team challenges and dinner services to prove they possess the passion, culinary ability and determination to win a life-changing grand prize: a Head Chef position at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, a total prize value of $250,000. Season 13 also will feature the milestone 200th episode of HELL’S KITCHEN.

Click below to watch/share the opening to HELL’S KITCHEN’s most explosive season yet:

YouTube link:

In the first hour of the premiere episode (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT), Chef Ramsay extends star treatment to the newest batch of contestants when they arrive in Hollywood for a silver screen experience. But the Hollywood ending is cut short when Ramsay splits the chefs into two teams – men (Blue) vs. women (Red) – and asks them to present their signature dishes in front of a live audience. Later, the chefs struggle to work together during their first dinner service, and one team’s performance is so disappointing that Chef Ramsay forces them to leave the kitchen.

In the second hour (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT), the Red and Blue teams will go head-to-head and dig as many Geoduck clams out of intricate sand sculptures and then recreate Ramsay’s Geoduck sashimi. The team that creates 15 perfect dishes will soak up the sun on a luxury yacht with Chef Ramsay, while the losing team will clean up the sand and prepare the Geoduck nigiri and chowder for dinner service. At the end of another fiery dinner service, one more chef will be sent home.

Throughout the season, the contestants will face grueling challenges, including serving a speed brunch for a culinary graduation, impressing an ultra-exclusive club with special guest judges and preparing delicious dishes for “glampers” at a nearby campsite. Also, the dinner services will be more star-studded than ever with celebrities dining at HELL’S KITCHEN, including legendary rock musician Steven Tyler of Aerosmith; talk show host Wendy Williams; NBA Champion Chris Bosh; Olympic gold medalist sprinter Allyson Felix; comedian Penn Jillette, actor Lou Diamond-Phillips and So You Think You CanDance judges Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe. As the competition progresses, the number of contestants will be narrowed down until only two chefs are left to compete for the HELL’S KITCHEN title.

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Kent Weed lays out the secrets to success to American Ninja Warrior, sports entertainment;

Cynopsis Sports 2014

By Chris Pursell

It’s been the summer of the Warrior, with NBC/Esquire Network’s sports entertainment franchise American Ninja Warrior continuing to cement itself as a summer staple from A. Smith & Co. The series recently got another renewal from NBC, and has been a stalwart on Monday nights as several athletes have gone viral with their mastery and failures on the course. Now, the company is looking to continue its success in sports entertainment, bringing back American Gladiators with a modern update. Meanwhile, American Ninja Warrior will present the Las Vegas Finals where competitors lay it all on the line for the $500,000 on Aug. 11 at 9p.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with Kent Weed, President of A. Smith & Co. about the success of the show, digital extensions and the future of the series.

Weed on the success of the show: I think the difference between this format and other shows is the stories of the athletes. They are relatable to the audience because anybody could do this, whether they are male, female, athlete, non-athletes, you feel like you could do this. They love the opportunity of doing something that is both unique and challenging. That is something else that is different about our show, you could be the best athlete in the world, or you could be someone who has lost 200 pounds to try to do this. Audiences find that inspiring.

On digital strategy: Digital strategy is a new strategy. Up until recently, we’ve found it very difficult to make sense and to make money doing it. So, we’ve tried to strategize in a way that allows us to make money. In the last couple of years, it didn’t make sense. It was a new platform, kind of like cable 20 years ago when nobody was making any money. Our margins just weren’t big enough. But now, it is starting to trend towards less about making money initially and more about making money in the long term. What we are doing is looking at ways to do this as well so it makes sense of r the audience and they get to watch something that is valuable to them. So we are constantly trying to evaluate so it is value-added entertainment or whether it is special and unique.

On the future: I think what you can expect moving forward is for people to complete the course. This is the only show that doesn’t have a winner! Yet it is still engrossing, fantastic to watch. Audiences are looking for a winner. We are also always thinking about what we are going to do next. The network is going to challenge us as well to create that. Once someone completes the course, we will make the courses harder. We challenge ourselves to make sure that we make it more difficult. Once you achieve this, can you do this? What’s interesting that we found this year is that a lot of competitors have built their own courses in their backyards. There is a huge, grassroots following for this. We are getting constantly challenged to beat them at their own game. They are looking to figure it out. Anytime something is new, it is challenging to the competitors, but they learn fast.

On the athletes: They are getting stronger, they are more talented and they are smarter. The most interesting thing I think is that, as good as they are, when you compete, it is night and day compared to doing a course in your backyard. It is one thing to be really good in practice and anther to be good in the game.

On finding franchises: We love sports, and sports entertainment is where we are centering a lot of programming. We are getting ready to do another huge franchise in American Gladiators, which is a brand we have the rights to with MGM. We believe in it and we believe in sports. Sports does well, it is an event situation. Sports entertainment can follow that, and I think that’s why American Ninja Warrior does well.

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TV One To Launch New Season Of 'Unsung'

Multi Channel News

By: R. Thomas Umstead

TV One will return its docu-music series Unsung on July 30 with 10 new episodes, according to network officials.   The series, which profiles R&B stars that were stars but never received superstar status, will feature in its upcoming new episodes such performers as Montell Jordon, Hi Five, The Emotions, Martha Wash, Troop, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Wilson Pickett, The Chi-Lites, Peaches & Herb and Rick James, said network officials.   “As an intimate portrait of the lives of some of music’s most captivating artist, Unsung remains a celebration of their impact on both the recording industry and culture alike,” said D’Angela Proctor, senior vice president of Programming and Production for TV One.  “By illuminating the stories of trials and triumphs in the upcoming slate, the legend of these iconic musicians will be sure to grow within the hearts and memories of our audience.”



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NBC Renews "American Ninja Warrior" "AGT" "Last Comic Standing"

Hollywood Reporter

by Lesley Goldberg

The network used its session in front of reporters at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour to announce additional season renewals for American Ninja Warrior, Last Comic Standing and America's Got Talent. As for the future of Hollywood Game Night, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said the network is already in production on additional episodes of the series, which runs on a different schedule than its summer unscripted fare.

The series have been solid performers this summer for the network as it looks to unscripted fare and inexpensive scripted co-productions to keep the lights on in the typically lower-rated viewing months.

"The renewal of these three series is evidence that we continue to hit our stride in delivering quality entertainment to a broad viewership,” said Paul Telegdy, president of alternative and late night at NBC Entertainment. “All of the hardworking talented people on these shows — both behind and in front of the camera — should feel very proud of their achievements.”

American Ninja Warrior has been a standout on Mondays, recently besting CBS' summer hit Under the Dome in the demographic in head-to-head competition. The A. Smith and Co.-produced series, which this season saw multiple women conquer the famed Warped Wall, will be back for its sixth season.

Last Comic Standing, revived for an eighth season, returned with host JB Smoove and judges Roseanne Barr, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Russell Peters. The Wanda Sykes-produced revival returned on par with its last outing four years ago thanks to a steady lead-in from Hollywood Game Night. It will return next summer for season nine.

America's Got Talent has been a cornerstone of NBC's summer schedule for nine seasons. The reality competition show, hosted by Nick Cannon and featuring judges Howard Stern, Melanie Brown, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel, has regularly ranked as summer's No. 1 series. The veteran series also recently bested ABC's big swing singing competition Rising Star in the latter's series debut with a special Sunday broadcast.

Unscripted fare is one of multiple strategies the broadcast networks have used to program in the summer. CBS helped change that game last summer with its Steven Spielberg-produced adaptation of Stephen King's Under the Dome.

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