American Gladiator-mania!

Oh, how the warriors have changed… and thank God!

Let me preface this post by recognizing the power of DVR! And, as if you needed to hear it from me, I’m in no shape to take on the gladiators or the contestants…

You see, I had high hopes for American Gladiators version 2008 — partly for the nostalgia, partly for the ratings. But the long-awaited comeback show stumbled out of the gates, literally.

1st show, Sunday night: During ‘Powerball,’ the first female contestant got hurt when a gladiator slammed her into a wall. Then she fell on her face running back to grab more balls… on her own… on flat ground. Wow! She was out. The alternate was in; equally as weak a competitor. For the men’s ‘Hang Tough,’ the gladiator hurt himself, so they brought in an alternate. Fast-forward to the ‘Eliminator’ — the female contestants barely finished the event. They looked like amateur marathon runners on the 26th mile, struggling to stay upright. They could barely jog. And one woman got stuck on the ramp at the end; not the conveyor belt, as I recall, but the ramp!

For the men, it was a little more competitive. There was a firefighter whose strength and training made him tough to take down. He made it to the top of the ‘Pyramid,’ weaved in-and-out of the gladiators in ‘Powerball’ like a running back, and dodged the flying sacks during ‘Hit and Run.’ The first men’s ‘Eliminator’ was better than the women’s, but the gladiators are not involved in the final event. How anti-climactic, to eliminate the gladiators from the ‘Eliminator.’ All-in-all it wasn’t awful. But that first round was lackluster and little boring with too many scripted transitions by the hosts. Speaking of, Laila Ali and Hulk Hogan definitely fit the role. But they need practice. The pair sounds a little scripted (but that’s coming from someone who watches talent too closely).

Enter DVR. Since I can’t stay up late Sunday nights, I watched the second part of ‘Gladiator’ Monday at lunch (and still haven’t caught up). What a difference one segment makes! That second round showcased some great talent and had me jumping out of my chair with excitement, “American Gladiators is back!” There was a female U.S. Marine who showed why our military is the best in the world. She manhandled those gladiators! On the rings in ‘Hang Tough,’ the gladiator did a classic move: She wrapped her legs around the player, let go of her rings, and hung upside down dangling from the contestant’s waist. Typically, the extra weight alone is enough to drop the contestant. Not this wife, mother, and Marine. She held on with one arm, and fought off the gladiator with the other. The gladiator fell to the pool below. Semper Fi, indeed!

The second female contestant in ‘Hang Tough’ pulled off an agile, nasty swing move and slid right past the gladiator to victory. Sweeeeet! And that’s where the DVR stopped… and I’m hooked, hungry for more. Despite my initial estimation, American Gladiators 2008 is a fun, energetic, family show. The producers have balanced tradition with creativity, adding some modern twists to this classic program. This time around, winning contestants have a shot at becoming gladiators themselves. So, David can become Goliath. Stay tuned.

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