Sunday, January 6, 2008

American Gladiators

In a sign that television networks have completely run out of ideas, NBC has remade the series "American Gladiators". Whether or not this is a sign that the writer's strike is finally hitting primetime, I'm not sure. But it really is a blast from the past. I remember watching the original show when I was in high school, and being a big fan of events such as "the assault" and "the wall". And before you judge me for watching the show, keep in mind that it used to be a big favorite of both Bill and Chelsea Clinton during their White House days.

Tonight was the premiere of the new series. Of course, to remake an old show, you can't just use the same formula. You always have to make a few changes, and it seems to be best if these changes are pushed to such an extreme that is almost seems ridiculous. Okay, it sometimes does seem ridiculous. While the old show was hosted by Larry Csonka and some other dude, the new series is hosted by Hulk Hogan and Layla Ali. And let me just say that Hulk Hogan is not exactly the best personality to be hosting a show. But beyond the hosts, some changes were also made to the show. The Gladiators themselves are pretty similar to the mold of the old Gladiators. Big, muscular characteristics with goofy names. Not quite the Blaze and Laser of old, but with names like Stealth and Titan. Lots of spandex on the Gladiators too, which isn't necessarily a bad thing with a Gladiator like Crush, but certainly makes you makes you want to turn away when you see a Gladiator like Hellga.

I particularly enjoyed some of the events. They decided to keep some of the old events, plus add some new ones into the mix. But when they had an old event, they had to make some kind of change. For example, you might remember "The Joust", where a contestant and a Gladiator are on top of their respective platforms and need to knock each other off of their respective platform. Well, how would you update this event to make it more exciting? Put the platforms over a large pool of water! Or maybe "Hang Tough", an event in which the contestant has to cross the event area swinging from one ring to the next, all while having a Gladiator chase after you trying to get you to fall off. How do you update this event? Put it over a large pool of water!

Like the old series, my favorite part of the show has to be the final event, The Eliminator. The Eliminator on the old series was modified several times from season to season, but its essentially a large obstacle course the contestants need to get through:

On the new version, this is where things really get interesting. They pretty much put together the toughest Eliminator I've ever seen, and it seemed like every contestant was about to collapse by the end. In fact, I think a few did. It starts by having the contestant scale an 8 foot wall, and then jump into a large pool of water (big surprise there!). But this isn't just any pool of water. Across the middle is a large FIRE that the contestants have to swim underneath. While the fire is not much of an obstacle and is clearly blatantly contrived, its still pretty damn cool. This is followed by climbing a large cargo net, and then the barrel roll. The barrel roll is pretty much what it sounds like. You grab onto a large barrel as it rolls down a hill with you hanging onto it. At the bottom of the barrel roll, the contestants have to use the handbike to get across a pit. By this point, all of them seemed exhausted and I questioned the logic of actually using the handbike. Why not just fall in the pit and then climb out the other side? Anyway, after the handbike, they run across a balance beam, climb up the pyramid, use the zipline to get back down, and then run up the inclined treadmill. Every single contestant was absolutely worn out by this point, and it resulted in most of them just falling down and laying on the treadmill as they tried to pull themselves up (see picture above). Once they completed this, there's just one more wall to climb and then bust through a wall of foam bricks to finish.

All things considered, it was a pretty enjoyable show and it brought back some memories. I'm not sure if I'll actually make sure I watch it each week, but I'm also sure I'll watch it again. It seems that they devote more time to interviews and background of the contestants, which I never really cared about in the first place. But whenever I watch Hulk Hogan talk, I find myself eagerly waiting for him to give us a good "Brother!" yell, or perhaps remind us to "train, say your prayers, take your vitamins, and believe in yourself". Or perhaps he'll start referring to the contestants has his Hulkamaniacs....


Anonymous said...

Sure, it was at times, pretty awful, but it was entertaining. It's an hour of television that will not enrich your life, but it will take your mind off your problems for just a li'l bit. Besides, watching that skateboarder get crushed for any entire episode had me jumping up and down shouting "Take that smart ass!"

ToM said...

I think Mayhem is gay.
You can see their intro video's here:

I used to love this show.

KathyF said...

Just coming over here to tell you I wrote about an experience I had in Madison, over on my blog.

And to check the weather. You guys had much snow yet?

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