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9 Fierce Facts About American Ninja Warrior

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American Ninja Warrior / Facebook

Now in its eighth season, American Ninja Warrior continues to challenge elite athletes with obstacle courses unlike any other—to the point that only two of the show’s competitors has ever successfully achieved "Total Victory" (both in season seven). Here are a few things you might not know about the series. May the best ninja warrior win.

1. THE SHOW DOESN’T HOLD CASTING CALLS.

Unlike other competition shows, American Ninja Warrior doesn’t hold traditional casting calls. Prospective contestants can send in a submission tape, then producers choose around 100 people to “run” in each of the cities they are visiting. If your tape doesn't get you one of those handpicked spots, there’s always a walk-on line. But you’ll need a different type of training for that. “The walk-on line is like waiting for Black Friday sales,” producer Brian Richardson told mental_floss. “You sleep in a tent for a week or more outside the course, with no guarantees. We usually only have time to run 20 to 30 people from the walk-on line. Sometimes people spend a week camping out and never get to run the course.”

2. THE COURSE IS EVEN MORE INTIMIDATING IN PERSON.

Richardson admits competitors are caught off-guard by how complicated the obstacles are when trying to run them in the flesh, as opposed to from the safety of their couch. “For most of our competitors, they've practiced on similar looking obstacles at home or at their gym,” he says. “But when they step up to compete—under the lights, in front of a crowd, with a camera in their face—it's a lot more intimidating.”

3. SMALL CHANGES CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE IN A COURSE.

While some of the obstacles on American Ninja Warrior come directly from Sasuke, the Japanese program upon which it is based, others are totally original to the stateside series and aren’t created overnight. “We work with the company that builds our obstacles, ATS, and brainstorm for months on ideas to test strength, balance, and agility,” explains Richardson. “It might start as a drawing on a napkin. Then we'll build a prototype and test it in the ATS warehouse. Ultimately, if it passes all the tests, then we will make it part of our course. Even when it's built on the course, we test it with athletes dozens and dozens of times to dial in the difficulty. Moving a rope six inches closer or farther away can make a world of difference.”

4. CERTAIN BODY TYPES MAY HAVE A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE.

Given the show’s title, you’d expect the competitors most likely to complete each course would be the big muscle guys with out-of-this-world strength, but that’s not always the case. “Typically, in most of the American sports, size and strength are a big advantage,” says American Ninja Warrior co-host Matt Iseman. “What we've seen in this, it's really strength‑to‑weight ratio. So the less weight you have to carry on the course, the better your strength does on that. I think we saw that last year with the biggest story, Kacy Catanzaro, who is five-feet tall [and] less than 100 pounds. No one thought she was strong enough, but the reality is she was so light—and she is incredibly strong—that she didn't have all this mass.”

5. NFL PLAYERS WANT IN ON THE ACTION.

Whether the leanest contestants have a competitive edge or not, co-host and former NFL player Akbar Gbajabiamila says pro football players often contact him to get on the course. “I get guys like NFL star quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers, telling me, ‘I love this show,’” he says. “I get guys like Charles Woodson texting me, like, ‘Man, this is amazing.’ Other guys texting me or tweeting me, saying, ‘Look, give me your number. I want to get on this obstacle course because I think I could do it.’”

6. NOT ALL COMPETITORS HAVE A CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH.

Since the start of the show, American Ninja Warrior has run some pretty inspiring competitors through their courses, like those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, and even recent open-heart surgery patients. “You don't have an excuse when you see how hard some of these competitors work and the adversity that they overcome,” says Iseman.

7. STAGE 4 WAS THE TOUGHEST OBSTACLE TO BUILD.

When asked about which obstacle was the toughest to build, Richardson says it's probably "Stage 4 in Las Vegas. It's four stories high, and with the way the desert winds blow in Vegas, it can be scary to be up at the top."

8. PRODUCERS ARE CHALLENGED BY THE NINJAS THEMSELVES.

Given that the show's producers are dealing with people who consider themselves ninja warriors, these contestants are stealthy, recreating obstacles at home to figure out the best way to work the course. Which means that producers must always remain one step ahead of their competitors. “Our best athletes train year-round for ANW now,” says Richardson. “There are gyms devoted to Ninja training that are popping up all over the country, so people have a lot more access to obstacles like the Warped Wall. We want to test them every year, so we have to keep creating obstacles that are fun, and challenging, and entertaining to watch at home.”

9. VIDEO SUBMISSIONS HAVE INCREASED 50-FOLD SINCE THE SHOW'S DEBUT.

In its first season, producers received tapes from 1000 American Ninja Warrior hopefuls. Last year, producers were slammed with approximately 50,000 videos of folks vying for a spot on the show.

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5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
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Netflix

Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"Madmax"
"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

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Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in October
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NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Netflix subscribers are already counting down the days until the premiere of the new season of Stranger Things. But, as always, in order to make room for the near-90 new titles making their way to the streaming site, some of your favorite titles—including all of 30 Rock, The Wonder Years, and Malcolm in the Middle—must go. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in October ... binge ‘em while you can!

October 1

30 Rock (Seasons 1-7)

A Love in Times of Selfies

Across the Universe

Barton Fink

Bella

Big Daddy

Carousel

Cradle 2 the Grave

Crafting a Nation

Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest

Daddy’s Little Girls

Dark Was the Night

David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates (Season 1)

Day of the Kamikaze

Death Beach

Dowry Law

Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief

Friday Night Lights (Seasons 1-5)

Happy Feet

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Hellboy

Kagemusha

Laura

Love Actually

Malcolm in the Middle (Seasons 1-7)

Max Dugan Returns

Millennium 

Million Dollar Baby

Mortal Combat

Mr. 3000

Mulholland Dr.

My Father the Hero

My Name Is Earl (Seasons 1-4)

One Tree Hill (Seasons 1-9)

Patton

Picture This

Prison Break (Seasons 1-4)

The Bernie Mac Show (Seasons 1-5)

The Shining

The Wonder Years (Seasons 1-6)

Titanic

October 19

The Cleveland Show (Seasons 1-4)

October 21

Bones (Seasons 5-11)

October 27

Lie to Me (Seasons 2-3)

Louie (Seasons 1-5)

Hot Transylvania 2

October 29

Family Guy (Seasons 9-14)

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