Big Spartan Sunday for Edwina

In a landscape of copycat formats, the obvious question facing Australian Spartan has got to be, how is this show not an Australian Ninja Warrior clone, and how will the audience react?

Ninja Warrior began in Japan as Sasuke in 1997 before one of its adaptations, American Ninja Warrior hit NBC in 2009. To date there have been more than 20 different territorial versions, including the TV mega-hit for Nine in 2017.

Marathon obstacle course event Spartan Race began in 2010 in Vermont by founder Joe de Sena where elite athletes would test their endurance skills under gruelling cross-country conditions. A TV format Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge was born in 2015 -also on NBC.

Australian Spartan will hit the ground running on Sunday for Seven, buoyed by audience enthusiasm for the Winter Olympics, as only the second adaptation outside the US.

Co-host Edwina Bartholomew, currently in PyeongChang, will have a busy night, first in Spartan’s debut ahead of the closing ceremony.

She acknowledges shows of this scale stem back much further than the immediate Spartan vs. Ninja stoush.

“There’s nothing really new, I suppose. It’s the same audience who loved Gladiator growing up, or Who Dares Wins. It’s Event TV you can sit down and enjoy,” she says.

“I would suggest this one is glossier (than those), but it harks back to an era of big TV. You don’t see a huge investments in massive TV shows anymore. But when we turned up we were blown away by the investment and the effort.

“And when jaded people of 15 – 25 years in TV are impressed, hopefully the audience is too.”

Produced by Matchbox Pictures and Eureka Productions, the series filmed in Queensland in December. Each heat features 20 teams, with filming running well into the night.

“Everything looks slicker at night, doesn’t it?” she laughs.

“We were working in an old oil refinery out near Brisbane airport, which they had amazingly transformed into the Spartan arena.

“We started at 3pm each day and finished next day at 4am, so it was the total reverse of what I normally do on Sunrise.”

Joining her as co-host is Hamish McLachlan whilst former NRL player Wendell Sailor is sideline reporter. From 4 heats and a semi-final, 10 grand finalists will compete on an extended Spartan course for a $150,000 prize.

The biggest point of difference for the show is in its team-play challenge. Teams of 3 (down from 5 in the US) must work together to complete challenges in a Dry or Wet Zone.

“There’s a team called Bankers By Day who work in Finance but on the weekends they let their hair down, so to speak, competing in obstacle course racing,” Bartholomew explains.

“The common denominator with all of them is they’re bloody fit. They’re teams that can come from any part of Australia and New Zealand, as well.”

But muscle is only part of the gameplay. Sometimes a team will falter for other reasons.

“It draws on different skills with some teams. They may be more adaptable, flexible or communicate better,” she continues.

“These are people who have to work together to get through the course. The slogan is ‘No-one Triumphs Alone’ and that’s definitely the case.

“Often you will find it could be a lack of communication or a ‘gung-ho’ attitude that brings a team unstuck. But the ones who work together and help each other out end up winning.

“It’s nice to see the dynamic between them. And I was surprised that when they do fail you expect some negativity, but every single person said it was amazing, and enjoyed the experience together. So the team element adds to it.”

If 2017 viewing -where family-viewing pulled big audiences- is any indication, then Seven could be poised to unleash a new hit series, with a little help from the Winter Olympics.

“It’s tapping into nice, family entertainment as opposed to drama or violence where you have to send the kids to bed early,” says Bartholomew.

“At the end of the day it’s a great family show.”

Australian Spartan airs 7pm Sunday on Seven.


  1. Wish someone at Seven updates us on Bruce McAvaney. I understand he may want privacy I don’t want a complete medical history,just say how he is going,there are people like myself that respect the guy and that showed with his absence at the Olympics!

    • He was never going to be part of the Winter Olympics. Bruce is still Seven Sport’s chief caller. He’ll be back for the Commonwealth Games and the AFL. The network has also actively been using him in promos / docos in the meantime.

      Bruce was hosting 7Two’s horse racing coverage the weekend before last.

  2. Went to a couple of nights of filming for this. Interestingly, the nights I went to were for season 2 which they filmed back to back with season 1. They must be banking on it doing well if they filmes two seasons before it even aired one!

      • You’re welcome. It was fun, managed to attend the series two semi final and the grand final. Very late nights and we were forbidden to leave the venue so a few people were quite angry. It really depended on where you were sitting at the course as to how engaging it was, but it all seemed to flow pretty smoothly. Unlike Ninja Warrior, at least this show has a clear winner and payoff.

        • Never forget you are not forbidden to leave an audience seating. I realise they say it and play the guilt card but it simply isn’t the case, even where they say for safety reasons. Nothing trumps the safety of your family when the babysitter is going home because they took too long to film.

          • It was an interesting situation. With no parking at the venue, we parked about 4 kilometers away and then were taken to the location via bus. If you wanted to leave early, you first had to fight with a producer, and then walk back to your car. I saw quite a few people leave on the grand final night who had staff physically block exits. It was an old oil refinery, and to be honest, it was very clear that the place was unsafe if you wandered off alone. If we had to use the bathroom you had to request it from an usher and then they would escort you there and back with a torch.

        • Very interesting natep, wow. May I ask, was the audience told of a strict confidentiality or something (i.e.) so you can’t go around telling people more details / winner? How does that work?

          • Audiences are requested and expected to avoid leaking info publicly, including social media, and in many cases sign a Confidentiality agreement. It isn’t perfect but works on trust usually without incident. I might look into a deeper article as it is a good topic.

          • At the semi final signs were posted out front advising of strict confidentiality etc. ]I can only assume it was the same for heats. If they saw you with your phone out of your pocket or bag, ushers were quick to tell you to put them away, or they said they had the authority to take it off you.

            At the grand final, every audience member entering the set signed a confidentiality agreement before even boarding the bus to the venue. It was interesting hearing the hosts reference things that happened in the first season and telling teams that ‘Australia has really fallen in love with you’, when it was filmed 3 months ago.

        • With natep’s latest comment down further (RE: a second season having been filmed), it makes me think they’ll air it later in the year, maybe Q4 to end with a bang, with Season 2 of The Good Doctor maybe?

          And if both seasons this year were successful (pending S1 on Sunday being a success), then film Season 3 and 4 (2019) this December again?

          Just a theory. Like when we used to have multiple seasons of MasterChef and The Block, even Bachelor spin-offs now.

  3. I like how Nine and Seven have selected presenters a bit different to the norm, if that makes sense, for a big entertainment show.

    Rebecca Maddern: news
    Ben Fordham: news
    Hamish McLachlan: sport
    Edwina Bartholomew: news

    None are (or were) reality or entertainment ‘hosts’ by trade. Like your Gretel Kileen or Osher Gunsberg or Sonia Kruger or people like Dave Hughes, Carrie Bickmore, Mick Molloy, etc.

    Ninja copped a backlash for its hosts last year, from “who are they'” to “they’re annoying, they don’t stop talking” (despite ratings being huge). Will be interesting to see Hamish and Eddy, but viewers have seen them together during the Winter Olympics and I thought their chemistry was actually quite good, they both looked happy together.

  4. The promos look great, I’ve seen the Spartan series from Denmark when I was over there and really enjoyed it.

    This will have a tough time against Married at First Sight though.

  5. The slip wall stuff from the US series is amazing to watch, people literally biting there team mates shoes to stay on the wall. If seven get this right it could do well for them.

  6. Beast Master is a clone of Ninja…. Ninja is a clone of gladiators…. gladiators in a clone of it’s Knockout…. Obstacle shows have been around since the dawn of time.

  7. I reckon I’ll get over my ‘rip-off-of-ANW’ feelings very quickly coz it looks like Seven have made a real effort with getting this right, and Edwina is a terrific personality who I think will do well for this show. Looking forward to giving it a shot!

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