World’s Strongest Man: Super Series, Five
Did we like it?
The old BBC shows may have lacked the requisite ‘razzmatazz’ necessary to enliven the sight of men who appear to have been sired by the sacrilegious union of some of the lesser Himalayan peaks and an unsuspecting Yeti grappling with random farm equipment, but on those shows you could almost taste the sweat floating from your TV screen whereas here you get drowned in a tidal wave of gloss, bleached teeth and banalities.
What was good about it?
• Even though the World’s Strongest Man has had its soul ripped out stuffed into a suit people only ever wear when they are meeting with lawyers, some events still bring back up some nostalgia. There’s the dead lift, where the test is to see if the men will drop the car they are supporting or that their eyes will bale out of their skulls; and the one where they have to hold on to two ropes as the cars they are attached to slip further and further down shallow inclines.
• It’s nice to see people on TV actually doing something they’re good at and have a talent for rather than watching hopeless, sub-standard/human glittering disco balls of vintage vacuum go on ‘journeys’ or stare with sightless eyes as a granite-faced harridan, shamelessly auditions for a guest spot on next week’s LK Today or Loose Women, criticises them using language with the same moral integrity that Burke & Hare used a spade.
• Competitor Kevin Nee becoming so exhausted that he collapses and needs oxygen in a rare TV moment of genuine physical exertion.
What was bad about it?
• Perhaps because the competition now shelters in a small sports arena in backwaters America, but many of the events have become an amorphous mass of bubbling testosterone. The super yolk and the final event that combined turning over a tyre and the farmer’s walk, where pretty much identical only using different weights.
• But the Blue Riband event of the World’s Strongest Man, the Atlas Stones, has been relegated to a mid-card sideshow where the competitors compete only against the clock instead of against each other as well. This has left the most exciting, visceral part of the contest as a flaccid facsimile of what was once the most risible ostentatious exhibition of manhood since Jason in Big Brother 6.
• The pretty heavy suspicion that, true or not, most of these men are on pretty heavy doses of steroids. The winner of this heat, and three-time World’s Strongest Man Mariusz Pudzianowski has served a year’s suspension for testing positive.
• The jabbing bursts of MOR guitar music that ascribes to be heavy metal when it is in fact the musical equivalent of a listless car park barrier worker who has been finding amusement by licking each of the metal pillars that holds the car park up and then ranking them in order of tastiness.
• The phantom propaganda each competitor disseminates about themselves. Vlad, who, we were told on at least 19 occasions, was the first ever competitor from Israel, claimed to have “the strongest legs in the world”, yet on the very first event he was so sluggish and feeble you imagined Bambi would’ve outpaced him. Meanwhile, Felix has “put claims out there that he’s got the strongest back”, and “Mark’s got the biggest hands in international strongman”. All of which hints that even this trial of brute physicality is slipping into the abyss of insubstantial gossipy dross.
• “Bergman – the new kid on the block” – This is a heartfelt plea to the whole of the human race: Can you please stop using the phrase “new kid on the block” or any of its variants as it conjures up images of five wretched teenagers who looked as if they’d been unlovingly composed from fresh vomit, dancing as if each of their limbs was a former state of Yugoslavia and attempting to violently secede from the torso, singing as though creating an aural version of the retreat of the stragglers from the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade, and filching the souls of an entire generation of teenage girls with the callous haphazardness of the Black Death.
• The fact that in the crimson throes of an event, one of the musclemen will inevitably provoke his veins to bulge through the skin like a map of the Amazonian tributaries will inevitably cause you to look at your (relatively) puny frame, and then tentatively make a date in your diary to go to the gym.
• Host ‘Colin Bryce’ who speaks with an English accent but acts and looks as if he’s been posted second class from Disney (his teeth, meanwhile, come first class from the shores of Java where they have been freshly plucked from unsuspecting clams and carved into gleaming teeth before being advertised on the inside back cover of the Mail on Sunday’s You magazine). It’s so overbearing to see someone from these shores so utterly corrupted and altered into an American stereotype, almost like when Captain Picard was turned into a Borg in Star Trek: TNG.
• Martin Bayfield, who was apparently the main host yet his role was shrunken and shrivelled to looking like a part-time freakish circus giant helping out on the goldfish stand at a funfair.
• We even missed John Inverdale’s sketches that were to comedy what Fred West was to guest houses.