With “24”‘s Jack Bauer taking this winter off from fighting terrorists due to the writers’ strike, Monday nights just seem a little less action-packed then they used to. Enter “American Gladiators.”Fortunately, for those of us struggling to survive the aforementioned strike, NBC’s revival of the 1990’s hit show manages to capture all the cheesy fun of the original. The basic idea of “American Gladiators” is fairly simple: two regular guys and two regular girls compete against world class athletes in a series of exciting events to determine which of the regular folks will advance on in the tournament that will ultimately decide the winner.
The one remaining guy and the one remaining girl left at the end of the tournament will each receive $100,000, a new car and, most importantly, the right to become one of the show’s “gladiators” (the name given to the athletes) for the second season. Don’t let the fabulous prizes fool you, “Gladiators” is far from “just another game show.” You won’t find huge, muscle-bound men and women with names like Titan and Hellga on “Deal or No Deal.”
Hosts Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali do a solid job of moderating the mayhem going on around them, but let’s face it, the show’s real stars are the games, many of which are carried over from the original show.
The highlight is “Assault,” where contestants must make their way around a course to fire off Nerf guns at a target while trying to avoid a gladiator who operates a tennis ball-firing turret. If the contestant hits the target the gladiator is thrown from their platform into a large pool of water. It’s truly what “American Gladiators” is all about: cheesy, over-the-top fun.
Other classic games back for another go-around include the jungle gym inspired “Hang Tough,” where contestants must use gymnastics rings to cross from one platform to another while avoiding a gladiator who seeks to throw them off.
The game “Powerball” involves contestants scoring points by placing rubber balls into cylinders while dodging the gladiators who try to prevent them from scoring.
The new “Powerball” course was altered from the original series to remove an out of bounds area, meaning the gladiators must either strip the contestants of the ball, block their shot or tackle them to the ground to prevent them from scoring. This change may have inadvertently led to two separate leg injuries caused by contestants being tackled hard to the ground by the gladiators, including one on the very first episode when “Powerball” was the first event.
The contestants earn points in these events that translate into a half a second per point head start for the leader as the two contestants enter the final event: “The Eliminator.”
During this event the contests face off against each other rather then the gladiators as they race through a complex series of obstacles that include swimming under fire, a 30 foot cargo net climb and the dreaded “Travelator.”
The “Travelator” is a treadmill running at an extreme angle that contestants must climb with the aid of a rope. It is not as easy as it sounds. No head start is safe when the contestants reach the “Travelator,” which is strategically placed at the end of the course when contestants are almost totally exhausted. During an early episode, one female contestant managed an impressive comeback after her opponent was too exhausted to do anything more then simply hang onto the rope.
The new gladiators have some big shoes to fill left by the likes of Turbo, Laser and Zap. Luckily for viewers, they are more then up for the challenge. The standouts of the new breed of gladiators include Titan, who was a gladiator during season six of the original show, when he was known as Thor, but never appeared on TV.
Wolf, who resembles a buff Grizzly Adams, is another highlight. The female gladiators also feature many interesting characters including mixed martial artist Crush and Hellga, who stands over six feet tall and towers above the opposition.
Overall “American Gladiators” is worth it if you were a fan of the original series, or even if you’ve never seen an episode before. It is one of the few bright spots in a TV landscape that has been laid bare by the nearly three month long writer’s strike. “Gladiators” won’t fill the void left by “The Office,” “Scrubs” or “24” but it will make it easier to survive the winter and hopefully the strike will conclude long before the tournament does.
Colin McGlinchey is a third-year student majoring in elementary education. He can be reached at CM646588@wcupa.edu.