World’s Strongest Man: Review

World’s Strongest Man

Channel 5, Thursday 20th December, 8pm

The last time I watched World’s Strongest Man it was all about Jon Pal Sigmarssun and Geoff Capes. I didn’t realise it had been 20 years since I had watched this until tuning in today for this review and I had not heard of any of these men.

Even the legends they spoke of who had risen up in the wake of Capes and Jon Pal, destroyed the opposition and retired years ago were new names to me.

However, apart from that nothing else really has changed.

It is still full of huge men lifting up heavy things and then putting them down. Sometimes the aim of the game is to pick up a heavy thing run a bit and then put it down and sometimes they may even drag a heavy thing from one spot to another (though not in this episode goddammit).

Back in the 80s, when The World’s Strongest Man was on the BBC, I seem to remember it being a special one off show as opposed to the weeks long competition Channel 5 are knocking out.

This is a mistake. Lifting heavy things, as impressive as it is, is only really interesting for the uninvolved as spectacle or novelty (which is why strong men were traditionally part of freak shows and circuses). There is no great skill, they just do something we can all do but on a greater scale, if you think about it’s not far beyond blinking or wiggling the end of one’s nose.

This, the 5th round qualifier, was held in Poland. The Poles have one of the best pedigrees in WSM, with the now retired Mariusz Puziannowski the event’s greatest ever champion, though you would not have guessed from the crowds. There couldn’t have been many more than 100 people watching, which I probably wouldn’t have noticed if the presenters didn’t keep referring to the huge numbers and magnificent support from the Polish people.

We may get to see more action with broadcast heats but as it’s all the same or similar events, it becomes rather staid and rather boring.

I have to admit though I quite like WSM, and its out of date charm. Its 80s recipe of weirdly massive men picking up hunks of timber and stone, girls in sexy outfits for no reason at all and presenters wearing shorts; all tied together with an overabundance of heavy metal guitar is quite soothing to watch in a comfort food type way.

It’s hard to review a show like this, you either like it or you don’t. However, even if you do like it, a casual observer is not going to watch the same thing 5 or 6 times over and I really think it should just be about the finals and forget all the heats.

If you do choose to watch, it will be the only place to hear lines like “Yeah, my bicep came off a couple of months ago but its OK nowâ€? from the UK’s Darren Sadler. Marvellous.