'The Titan Games': Everyday People Become Heroes on Athletic Competition Series Says EP Arthur Smith

Kate Hahn
Preview Vivian Zink/NBC

The original Titans were superstrong (and supersize!) gods from Greek mythology. In this grueling new athletic competition, hosted by actor, former wrestler and mountain of muscle Dwayne Johnson, the contestants are the closest thing mere mortals can get to matching the might of these ancient deities. The likes of a truck driver, lawyer, trauma nurse and special-ed teacher go head-to-head in contests of strength, agility and speed that might intimidate Atlas himself.

The Titan Games is a platform for everyday people to become heroes,” executive producer Arthur Smith says. “They’re the type of people who go to the gym and train to be the best version of themselves. And this is their chance to show how good they are.”

In each hourlong episode, women and men compete separately. Four males and four females go through elimination rounds in which pairs face off in about 15 different challenges based on Johnson’s own workout routines — a tug of war, for example. The final two men and two women then head to “Mount Olympus,” which looms over the set, for seven more trials, all rolled into one uphill scramble.

“They literally climb up a mountain that tests every athletic skill possible,” Smith says. At season’s end, the two winners of each episode return for an ultimate battle to be top titan. Viewers will also learn the backstories and personal struggles of the Titan hopefuls — including Florida motivational speaker Chris Ruden, who was left with a short arm and just two fingers on one hand due to a congenital birth defect — as they’re filmed at work and at home with their families. For every episode, “We build the story of who these two people are,” says Smith, a producer of three past Summer and Winter Games. “The emotion is on par with the Olympics.”

The Titan Games, Series Premiere, Thursday, Jan. 3, 8/7c, NBC