Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Spandex, bad facial hair, "wrasslin'", domination, water play, muscle worship, homoeroticism, bad stereotypes and unmitigated cheesiness? Ah yes, the triumphant return of American Gladiators. It was actually a lot worse than I expected it to be, but this show is one of those products where the worse it gets, the more entertaining it becomes. Of course, I have a soft spot for obstacle course based competition: it looks like a lot of fun though I wouldn't last more than 5 seconds.

So, the show started with the introduction of the class of Gladiators. The stupid nicknames have returned, though I wonder how they were settled upon. For example, "Wolf" (he of the aforementioned bad facial hair), how did that persona come about? Did he audition for the role of Wolf, or was he christened upon seeing how fugly a beard he could grow? Then there's "Militia", which I think is the worst name of the bunch. First off, I tend to think of gun-toting drunk rednecks rather than a warrior when I hear the word. Also, it would seem that fellow Gladiator "Justice" should instead be named "Judiciary" or "Adjudication Committee of the PTA", if we're going for consistency. However, the show sunk its hooks into me when they introduced the final Gladiator all Monster Truck Rally style: "Say hello to HELLGA!" Oh yes, a large, blond-braided, German-inspired character with that spelling. Show 1, Mike 0.

The actual competitions are more or less the same as the original show. There are some new events but they fit the theme just fine. A number of events take place over a pool of water instead of padded mats, so that's kind of cool. What's not so cool: the hosts. Laila Ali and Hulk Hogan. Seriously. I liked Laila on Dancing with the Stars, but that doesn't qualify her as an adequate interviewer after events. Honestly, she doesn't really add anything to the show.

Hogan, on the other hand, is beyond help. I got the feeling about halfway through that the show might be just one step away from being too complicated for the Hulkster. During one of his interviews, the camera switched from the contender to Hulk and he had a look on his face like he was clearing a blockage from his occipital lobe or something. I wish I knew how to screengrab so I could share my joy with you.
The other major problem I have with Hogan is his liberal use of the term "Brother". I'm guessing he is expected to ad lib a lot of his patter but it is a trait of someone who is not accustomed to public speaking on the fly to latch onto a word, which I think is the case here. In one exchange, he used the word "Brother" four times. In fairness, he does use the term "Sister" when talking to the female contenders, so at least he is conscious of his security word. Soldier on, Brother Hogan, it's a long road to the semi-finals.

They did revamp the Eliminator, and it is hellacious. It starts with an 8 foot wall/rope climb (example of how I would fail after 5 seconds). Then the contenders dive into the pool where a wall of fire is lit above the middle (they have to swim under). Contenders exit the pool by climbing up a 30 foot cargo net. At the top, they will ride this barrel roll thing that looks like fun down about 10 feet. They then have to do the hand bike [though strategically, since this is timed, it would seem that dropping off the bike and climbing the scaffold ladder would actually be faster] followed by a walk down a balance beam. Then they climb up a padded pyramid and ride down a zip line. The contenders then have to run up a treadmill (which looks to be at a much steeper angle than in the original version). Once they reach the top, they climb up one more ledge and crash through a wall to stop the clock. I'm exhausted just typing that.

This show is 100% guilty pleasure television and I recommend it to all.

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