One of America's beloved competition shows is about to make its long-awaited return. American Ninja Warrior's 12th season has a premiere date, and athletes will fight for the title in a shortened season. They will also do so as NBC strives to distance itself from former champion Drew Drechsel's arrest amid allegations of luring an underage girl for sexual relations.
According to TVLine, the competition show will return on Monday, Sept. 7, with a two-hour premiere. Production for American Ninja Warrior's 12th season took place at the Dome at America's Center in St. Louis. This fact made the competition show the first NBC series to return amid the coronavirus pandemic. TVLine also reports that the upcoming season will have a very different look than previous iterations. There are only eight episodes, which is about half of a typical season.
"The upcoming episodes will feature an abridged format with multiple rounds: qualifiers (which include a six-obstacle course), semifinals (a 10-obstacle course) and finals (a 10-obstacle course, plus a playoff bracket where the top eight competitors will race head-to-head on the Power Tower)," TV Line's report reads. "The top 50 athletes will bring along two people from their communities to compete with them, totaling 150 players competing for a $100,000 prize."
Part of the return is the removal of Drechsel from the eight-episode season. When allegations surfaced surrounding the former champion, NBC responded by severing all ties with him and said that he would not feature in any upcoming episodes. Sources told TVLine that the company edited Drechsel out ahead of the upcoming premiere.
"We are shocked and disturbed to learn about the charges alleged against Drew Drechsel," the company said in a statement. "American Ninja Warrior is a family show that has inspired countless people, and we will not let the actions of one contestant tarnish the hard work and amazing stories of so many. Moving forward, the American Ninja Warrior brand will sever all ties with Mr. Drechsel, including his appearance on future seasons of the show."
Authorities arrested Drechsel on Aug. 4 at his home in Florida. He appeared in federal court and then U.S. Marshals transported him to New Jersey, where he will stand trial for his alleged crimes. The United States Attorney's Office said that Drechsel "is charged by complaint with the manufacture of child pornography, enticement of a minor to travel for illicit sexual conduct, travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, and use of interstate commerce to entice a minor."