Sound and fury worthy of a network TV shoot was unleashed Thursday night along the Delaware River in Port Richmond for NBC's reality competition American Warrior Ninja. The show was taped in Philadelphia for the first time since it premiered in 2009.
Thursday's event featured 130 contestants and was the first of a two-night shoot that will yield oodles of footage for the eight season premiere on June 1.
American Ninja Warrior may not be as sadistic as its precursor - the Japanese show Sasuke, Ninja - but it's a rigorous contest. Only one person, last season's Isaac Caldiero, has ever won the $1,000,000 grand prize.
Thursday's event featured about a dozen contestants from the region, including one of Ninja's most experienced and beloved regulars, Jamie Rahn, who teaches parkour at his Cherry Hill gym.
He's been on the show for the past six seasons.
"I do it for the challenge," said the 28-year-old whose dayglo green spiked hair and intricate four-color tattoos has helped make him a popular attraction.
"My goal has always been to try to understand what my body can accomplish, see what I am capable of doing."
Coatesville physical therapist Arianne Missiner is a newcomer who entered the contest to celebrate life. "I just beat cancer," said Missiner, 35. She began training for Ninja last winter while undergoing treatment for Liposarcoma Cancer, a rare cancer of connective tissues.
She was declared cancer-free in January.
Richard Shoemaker's motives for competing aren't perhaps as noble: The Cheltenham native is to adrenaline what the Cookie Monster is to cookies.
He wants, wants, wants.
"I'm a rock climber," Shoemaker, 39, said as if this explained it all.
The Temple Medical School alumnus admits he chose his career because it's exciting: He's an emergency room doctor. Last year he made it to the finals, which are held each year in Las Vegas.
(For more on a local contestant, read "Medical mystery solved, he's ready for American Ninja Warrior")
Ninja has contestants run a gauntlet of progressively difficult obstacles with names such as the Floating Steps, Log Grip and Paddle Boards. In other words, they have to enter into a flesh-and-blood version of Mario Bros.
The mere sight of the set can be unnerving. Contestants aren't allowed to practice on the obstacles, which are routinely changed between seasons..
The setting is pretty daunting as well: The set was sandwiched between the river and the once-gorgeous edifice of the Richmond Power Station, familiar from fans of the sci-fi movie 12 Monkeys.
It's the kind of setting the show loves to use, said exec producer Kent Weed. "Last year we shot in Pittsburgh at the Carrie Furnace," he said, "a historic landmark that really symbolized the . . . steel industry."
A series of dramatic sounds forestalled further conversation - a hard splash followed by a pained groan from the audience. Another contestant had fallen into the pool of cold water - a sort of dunce's dunk tank - beneath each obstacle.
Beaten down by Mario Bros. obstacles and soaked. So that's what fun looks like.