Monday, January 7, 2008

American Gladiators Review

Thanks to the good people at NBC, American Gladiators is back on the air after a decade of syndication on ESPN classic. I watched the two hour premier last night and plan on watching the regularly slotted hour show tonight as well. This is not to say that I like the new American Gladiators, because I don't at all, I just want one more night of indulgence in the nostalgia of the events before I give up on the show.

The new version is pretty bad in a lot of ways. The production is awful and they broke too far away from the old script of the show. Now we are doing interviews with the contenders before and after each event with lots of lame, scripted smack talk and way too much face time for the completely unfunny and uningaging Hulk Hogan. This drives me insane, as one of the best parts about the original was that you had nothing but a couple of brief interviews with the contenders during the competition - usually the halfway mark and right before/after the eliminator. This puts the focus on the competition and not the mullet sporting announcers, which was fantastic. Now we have way too much scripted Hulk and Laila Ali for me to handle.

On the plus side, they kept essentially all the same events as before, just adding what I find to be generally positive additions to them. The joust now takes place above a pool, which I think is cool and the earthquake event is the same as the conquer portion of "Breakthrough & Conquer" but with a new twist. Now the wrestling ring is suspended above a mat and tilts all over the place as you wrestle the gladiator. They also took out the portion of the eliminator where contenders raced across the balance beam while being attacked with swinging medicine balls and made that it's own event - "Hit & Run". I thought this was a cool twist and makes for a pretty cool event, especially considering the bridge they race across is suspended over a pool as well. To replace this segment on the eliminator they added in a barell roll section, which I am pretty ambivalent towards. It isn't particularly cool to watch, but I am sure it makes it harder for the contenders after getting spun around a few times. Also added to the eliminator is a section where the contenders jump off a wall into a pool and then must wim to the other side underneath several pipes of flames. This was an awesome addition to the final challenge and through one night has cuased lots of problems for the contenders, including one bloody forehead.

The female gladiators also are less mannish looking on the whole, and Crush and Fury are actually pretty good looking I think (Fury even more so if she didn't wear her hair in the awful ponytail). This is a welcome improvement I feel like, and I am sure female viewers are happy with the general attractiveness of the male gladiators as well.

On the whole though, I can't stand the commentary and interviews with Hulk and Laila all the time, the dramatic music they overlay on the events and lead into commercial with and the constant advertiser references, like the fueled by Subway replays. All of this added glitz, glamor and star power have really detracted from the original version which reminded me of adult Guts in a way; little to no commentary from the hosts with a focus on the action of contender vs. gladiator. I can't really see this round of American Gladiators sticking around too long as many more people will eventually get fed up with the terrible production quality and realize that the simplicity of, and the nostalgia from, the original aren't enough to keep them watching. The events are still cool to watch, but everything in between makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon.

2 out of 5 stars.

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