Physical 100, a competitive game show done right

Physical 100 takes away everything I hate about American competitive gameshows and whittles the concept down to the single most important part of these shows . . . the competitors. As someone who grew up on American Gladiators and have watched American Ninja Warrior, Broken Skull, Road Rules, The Challenge, Physical 100 blew my expectations out of the water.

What does Physical 100 do differently from other reality game shows?

First, let’s talk about the challenges. Unlike American gameshows, Physical 100’s challenges are almost all based around endurance and then branch off into teamwork, strength, and agility. The introductory challenge is to hang from a metal grid for as long as you can. That’s it.

It’s amazing to see how the bigger competitors immediately fall while the smaller competitors hang on for dear life. Gymnasts, naval special forces, mountain rescue, cross fitters, skeleton racers, all compete against each other to see who remains standing. There is no trash talking and no announcer to state the obvious. Just close ups of athletes drenched in sweat with their faces contorted in pain. (Though there may be hints of sexism, not going to lie.)

Physical 100 Jang Eun Sil with a caption that reads, "Jin-hyeong, do we look like ordinary women to you?"

Once the introductory challenge is complete, then the real game begins. Those who lasted the longest in the preliminary challenge get to choose their opponents. You would think the stronger competitors would pick weaker opponents to dominate, but that’s not what happens. Strong fights against strong. They would rather sacrifice a chance at winning 300 million won for a chance to prove they are the strongest competitor. I don’t think you’d see that on American gameshows.

Physical 100 displays excellent sportsmanship

When you watch interviews with each athlete. They don’t talk crap about their other opponents. They don’t call them jerks or blame them during team games. Each participant raves about the wonderful experience they had competing with some of the greatest athletes in the country. They speak in reverence of their opponents even in defeat.

The participants in Physical 100 will blame themselves before others. They will say, “If only I could have carried one more bag. If only I was faster. If only I had been stronger, I could have helped my team.”

The Physical 100 challenges are extraordinary and would have easily defeated regular people like me. One event requires the Physical 100 to fill in sandbags, climb steps, build a bridge, and dump sand into a container on the other side. It sounds simple and it is. But once you repeat the exercise for an hour or two, you start to realize how sadistic and physically exhausting the challenge is.

There is not a single game that doesn’t push these competitors to the limit. It’s amazing how much drama there is watching someone struggle to make it to the finish.

Although it’s not a focus of the show, there were some injuries.

Physical 100 is also a show with a lot of heart

I can’t say too much because this show is best experienced with no expectations. All I can say is just because the athlete looks muscular and in great shape, it doesn’t mean they can make it to the end. And just because someone is scrawny, it doesn’t mean they don’t have the guts to outlast the others. Each competitor brings something unique to the game that no one else can bring. There are also athletes who you expect to completely dominate the game only to be taken out in the first or second challenge.

Also, my hats off to the women in the game, especially the female wrestlers. There’s not too many of them, but they earn the title of elite. It’s awesome to watch.

Oh yes, this show has a lot of eye candy

I might as well get this out of the way before I go too deep. This show is about people who are in the best shape of their lives. You’re going to see some mouthwatering physiques on this show.

Two Physical 100 male athletes wrestling each other bare chested and in dark shorts.
Physical 100 Yung Sun Bin running with a ball carried in his arm.
Physical 100 competitors standing around waiting for their next challenge in grey excercise outfits.
Choo Sung-Hoon sporting yellow glasses, coiffed hair, and a stylish suit jacket.
Sexyama. Choo Sung-Hoon modelling a white jacket, black shirt, gold necklace. There's a surprised emoji next to a cropped photo of his bare muscular back.
Wrestler Jang Eun Sil flexing a large bicep while holding a basketball. She is wearing a pink jersey with the number 32.
Yung Sun Bin standing, looking off camera in a grey t-shirt.

Despite all this, Physical 100 does have some annoying quirks

Although there is no narrator, there were some creative decisions which ruined the viewing experience.

My biggest gripe with Physical 100 is the overuse of instant replay for some of the most mundane shots. We don’t need to see a replay of an athlete running down steps from three different camera angles. The replays feel like padding and they rarely add to the excitement of the event itself. Although the editors do a good job of keeping you invested in the game, the instant replays are an irritating distraction.

My other issue with Physical 100 is the first episode which dedicates almost forty minutes to introducing each athlete. If it wasn’t forty minutes, it sure felt like it. When we see the first athlete come in and find the sculpture of their body, it’s cool. After the seventy fifth competitor, it gets old!

I understand that each athlete is special and brings something unique to the table, but the intro goes on for way too long. It goes on long enough that you think to yourself, “Is this entire episode just about introducing the characters?” It’s not, but the fact that I had these doubts is a problem.

Lastly, some of the challenges didn’t really seem fair for all competitors.

Physical 100 has at least two events designed for a specific body type. One event in particular, was for a strongman competition. The woman who volunteered to play couldn’t even participate. There’s also an event near the finale where it didn’t seem possible for the athlete to compete because of the huge weight disadvantage.

The producers could have done a better job balancing the events regardless of weight and size. For example, if you are ninety pounds and in great shape and you enter a tug of war with an out of shape fat person that is two hundred pounds, the fat person is going to win.

Despite these flaws, Physical 100 was a hugely entertaining show and I would absolutely love if Netflix did a Season 2. There were so many great stories in such a short amount of time; it was really wonderful and heartwarming to see such an excellent display of sportsmanship. There is so much potential for this show to become a phenomenon. If it does, you can bet I will be first in line to watch.

Physical 100 on Netflix is a must-watch.

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Wilmar Luna

Couldn't be a superhero in real life so he decided to write his own. When he's not creating empowered female characters he can be found watching films, reading books, and playing lots of video games. Buy his books here: