Monday, January 7, 2008

American Gladiators: Who Needs Writers when You’ve got Muscles?

American Gladiators: Who Needs Writers When You've Got Muscles?

When you think of America I'm sure the first thing you think about is Ford Trucks, Apple Pie and the underdog overcoming great odds and come out ontop. So it's not a surprise that American Gladiators came about. American Gladiators was a subtly patriotic show about amateur athletes going head to head with professional "Gladiators" in a series of grueling events. After going on a short twelve year hiatus for a few production meetings and the construction of a new set, the series is now back on the air. How does the new American Gladiators stack up against the original from the early 90's?

Then: Aired during Operation: Desert Storm, a justified invasion of Iraq that was backed by a majority of the American public. Although we pulled our troops out of the country rather quickly and left Saddam Hussein in power, the war was considered a success.

Now: Will air at the height of the writer's guild strike.

Then: Pumped full of steroids, scooped up from a beach side gym in California.

Now: Pumped full of steroids and botox, scooped up from reality shows audition rooms and gay porn sound stages in the valley.

Then: Mike Adamle, the greasy creep that pestered female competitors with his constant leering and unnecessary physical contact during interviews resulting in five settlements.

Larry Csonka, the retired football player who felt the need to reference his accomplishments in the NFL at every opportunity.

Now: Hulk Hogan, the greased-up freak will confuse female competitors by referring to them as "dude" and "brother" during interviews.

Laila Ali, the retired boxer who will feel the need to reference her father's accomplishments at every opportunity.

Then: Tourist families taking a rest from the blazing sun during their trip to Universal Studios, clad in Zubaz and neon T&C Surf Design shirts.

Now: Tourist visiting L.A.tempted off the streets of Culver City with the offer of free granola bars and water bottles and a chance to get out of the So Cal heat. In exchange they only have to constantly cheer on cue and get the chance to see regular joes get pounded by females that look like this

Then: As a Gladiator mans a giant air cannon that launches tennis balls at 100 miles per hour, the challenger must navigate an obstacle course and shoot a target above the Gladiator's head with one of several Nerf guns without getting pegged by a tennis ball.

Now: Realizing the event's obvious influence on the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, it has been changed to include a two minute moment of silence half way through the event. During this time, the challenger that can go the longest without blinking or laughing gets five points at which point he gets pelted with those 100 mph tennis balls.

Then: Using padded jousting poles, a Gladiator and challenger attempt to knock each other off raised platforms to the safety mats far below.

Now: Taking a page from Survivor, the Gladiator and challenger share a tiny platform above a pool of water. The two put their senses of balance to the test as they stand still for hours. The first to fall in the water wins. This event takes up 40 minutes of air time per episode.

Then: The challengers and Gladiators step inside large metallic spheres that resemble hamster wheels and smash into each other. Challengers score points by stopping on marked capture points.

Now: Gladiators and challengers put on blindfolds and enter a small closet, where they punch and kick one another wildly. Points are awarded arbitrarily.

Then: Two challengers race to the top of a rock-climbing wall as Gladiators attempt to pull them off.

Now: Challengers and Gladiators team up to pull Mexicans off of a replica U.S./Mexico border fence as they scramble for a better life.

Then: Gladiators don protective gear and shields, then stand atop a raised platform as challengers attempt to knock them off by swinging into them with a rope.

Now: Three judges - one snarky, one female and one "cool" - rate the challengers' interpretive dances and puppetry skills.

Then: The points collected in the previous events don't count for anything more than a couple of seconds head start. The final event of every show, both challengers race to complete a brutal gauntlet of challenges and emerge the victor.

Now: Challengers are released in a section of L.A. that was devastated by a 1997 earthquake. Here they must elude a series of Gladiators armed with unique gadgets such as flamethrowers and jetpacks as they attempt to hunt down and kill the challengers in front of a bloodthirsty nation of mindless viewers, much like The Running Man. Just like that, the winner of the event becomes Governor of California.

In the end it's pretty simple. American Gladiators is a show that is brought to you for some senseless violence. It's slightly under the level of Battle Royale and slightly above American Idol when it comes to actual talent and skill. In fact, I would like to see this season of American Idol include some sort of events seen on Gladiators. It would at least make it more interesting to light, that's for sure. With all the scripted shows running on their last runs of new episodes before you have no new episodes to show, this is a good move by NBC to at least keep an audience. When your show has some large Aryan race super soldier who can crush most men with her hand, why wouldn't you watch? Why hey.. I think it may be on right now...

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