Contrary to what Netflix’s marketing for Rhythm + Flow would have us believe, rap competition shows have actually become old hat. There are only so many permutations that can be applied to the formula (“what if they were all teens?” asks Lifetime’s The Rap Game, the Jermaine Dupri vanity project that has actually launched a few moderately successful rap careers to date) before showrunners run out of ideas to keep the core concept fresh (all puns intended). Enter Eric Andre and the first truly original show premise to come along in a good, long while: Rapper Warrior Ninja.
Rapper Warrior Ninja basically mashes up the concepts for two of TV’s favorite, turn-off-your-brain guilty pleasures: Musical competition shows like the ones mentioned above, and Ninja Warrior, the Japanese import that pit both professional and amateur athletes against a grueling, borderline torturous obstacle course. Contestants on Ninja Warrior would have to balance on narrow beams over a frigid lake, shimmy by their fingertips along tiny ledges and climb the dreaded “warped wall” to get to a timed goal in pursuit of nothing other than the pride of saying they beat the challenge.
Now, insert rapping.
You’ve got to admit, Eric Andre is something of a mad genius for this. The concept comes from a segment on his own, long-running The Eric Andre Show on Adult Swim. Ostensibly a late-night talk show/public access program, The Eric Andre Show often sprung demented surprises on its guests, courtesy of the host’s deranged sense of humor. In one memorable episode, he had Killer Mike and Action Bronson, two rappers known for their less-than-fit physiques, battle rap while jogging on treadmills. Rapper Warrior Ninja sounds a lot like that, but with obstacles thrown in for added hilarity.
The show is set to air on Quibi, an upcoming mobile streaming platform that touts “premium shows that are only up to 15 minutes in length,” according to a press release. Other big-name producers and actors with projects set for the platform include Guillermo del Toro, Kevin Hart, Chrissy Teigen, Idris Elba, Tyra Banks, Steven Spielberg, and Jennifer Lopez. According to Vulture, it’s set for launch at $5 per month or $8 per month ad-free next year, aiming for an April 6 launch date. Stay tuned.