I already have a favorite Gladiator.  His name is Titan and he looks like a freakish cross between Matthew McConaughey and Rocky IV-era Dolph Lundgren.  He trash talks and flexes before, during and after every event, which is something I think I’d do if I was an American Gladiator…

Last night, I sat through the premier of the new American Gladiators like Nelson Muntz watching Andy Williams.  I was totally enrapt, all the way from the pyrotechnics-filled opening number to the final contestant interview.  Gladiators had me for two full hours.  And I loved every second.  In fact, I loved it so much that I surprised myself.

Behold, a Gladiator!We all have memories of the original run of the show.  Every weekend, we were transported to a pseudo futuristic battle/playground, where a baffling mix of sport and theatre awaited.  There were mullets-aplenty, and they flapped in the wind as contestants sprinted their way through the Assault.  Larry Csonka offered expert analysis on Gladiator strategy in Powerball.  There were plucky, sign-wielding fans in the crowd that constantly made the audience uncertain whether there were fifty people or two thousand people in the Gladiator Arena.  Watching that show as a kid was an experience.  Despite the relatively skimpy outfits, it was somehow a family friendly show.  There were real live action figures battling against normal sclubs for prizes and glory.  And to the average ten year old, something like that is as addictive as drugs or Magic cards.

When I first heard that Gladiators was coming back, I had more of an “oh, interesting” reaction than a “OMG WTF BBQ SOOO EXCITED!” reaction.  Sure, I loved the show when I was a geeky middle schooler, but it’s been over a decade.  Things change.  I spend my days in an office, not learning my fractions.  And sure, I still like video games, but I don’t spend the whole of my Saturdays eating mac and cheese and playing Techmo Bowl anymore (though maybe I should).  A show like the original Gladiators, with all of the goofy glam and cartoonish competition, could not possibly hold the attention of an analyst in his mid-twenties.

But then they announced that Hulk Hogan would be a host.  And then NBC posted Gladiator biographies (there’s one named Hellga!).  I found myself actually getting excited for the premiere of a television show.  I made specific plans to stay home and watch it.  And when it came on, my heavens, it was all I could’ve asked for.  I nearly shook my girlfriend to pieces during Hang Tough.  I was on the edge of my seat during the Pyramid.  My roommate and I lept to our feet and high fived when the referee called a “giving him the business” penalty during Gauntlet.

I was a ten year old again.  American Gladiators reignited that type of fandom that most folks forget about during their teenage years, when the angst and bitterness begins to set in.  Wonder had returned to me.  It was that same kind of wonder that makes a third grader want to hit a homerun like David Ortiz or throw a touchdown pass like Peyton Manning.  It’s a magic feeling – an odd mix of passionate fandom and boundless personal potential.  My roommate and I came up with Gladiator names for ourselves (He’s Gavel, I’m Eagle, since you’re asking), and I started thinking about how tough it would be to fly out to LA and try out to be a contestant.  We were cheering for the Davids and the Goliaths.  We we joking about all of the new fire and water on the set.  It was a heck of a thing.

A fairly hokey reality competition show is an interesting place to relive your childhood, but I’ll take such flights of fancy wherever I can get them.  The show is on again tonight, everybody.  Find an hour and check it out.  The ten year old in you will appreciate it.

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  • Fish

    It’s funny that your favorite Gladiator is Titan, because I cried out ‘Bullshit!’ when they introduce him… since there already was a Titan back in the second half of Season One. Re-use of a Gladiator name annoyed the piss outta me (and my wife heard the same cried of ‘Bullshit’ when they intro’d an all-new Siren as well – another duplicate name).

    I watched all 2 hours of the premiere last night, and Michelle watched all 2 hours of me watching the premiere last night. Needless to say, she was quite bemused… especially with all my analysis of the things that stayed the same and the things they changed. I liked the Arena football-styled walls for Powerball… HATED the changes they made to Assault (requiring the contender to load the rocket launcher himself and find the arrow for the crossbow inside a sandpit? Laaaaaame!!!)… and thought Hit N’ Run to be a nice addition (being a cross between one of the old Eliminator obstacles and an event from Most Extreme Elination Challenge). And I also happen to think Pyramid is a brilliant event… because it’s awesome to watch the Gladiators just grab onto the cotender and then throw both of themselves ass-over-tea kettle to the bottom of the ‘Mid.

    The one thing I love most of all though… was just HOW SICK the Eliminator has become! When they didn’t preview the entire course and I got to experience the obstacles for the first time as the contenders did, I was flabbergasted! The handbike AFTER the swim, cargonet, and tumbling cylander? That’s just cruel! Then the treadmill at the END of the entire event?!? INSANE! It’s no wonder that of the eight people who ran it, NOBODY could get up the thing on the first try. And I was laughing hysterically when some of them could only grab the rope and then hang onto it as the treadmill tried to send them back to the bottom… their limp bodies dangling and flapping on the ramp, unable to gather the energy to make that last crawl to the top.

    I mean, watching the contenders run out of gas even after just the cargonet climb and then sleepwalk their way through the rest of the course with their eyes dead to the world was just fanastic. This event now truly deserves the name it’s given… Eliminator.

    Overall, I could have done without the obscene number of commercials they ran, and Hulk and Leila Ali were pretty lame as interviewers (I’m not surprised at all that they hired some no-name person to do actual play-by-play since I’d never be able to stand Hogan and Ali do it together). Michelle chose Wolf as her favorite (mainly because he behaved in a way that was fitting to his name, but not so over the top that he was a caricature of a bad pro wrestler). And while I find Crush the hottest, I think that Fury will end up being the best all-around performer for the women when all is said and done. Her work on Earthquake, her upside-down grab on Hang Tough, her skill on Joust… she had it all.

  • Serpico

    Fury is up there in the Top Three of Gladiators I enjoy after her acrobatic leg grab on the rings. I was stunned. And maybe a little turned on.

    In any event, I think the changes to the Eliminator have given the show a Get Out of Jail Free card for all of season 1. No matter what else they do on the show, so long as the Eliminator does what it does, I’ll be watching.

  • Yeah, there already was a Titan, but Titan himself is a retread (though he had a different name originally- Thor? Can’t find much data on that, he was a little-seen alternate). As long as they don’t try to name anyone Gemini or Zap I’m cool.

    And seconded on astonishment at the brutality of the new Eliminator. That shit is just, indeed, INSANE.

  • D-bomb

    😆 These post make me so extremely happy! I watched it last night with Auston, Lizzie, and DJ. Its not somthing that I would call awsome. I never really watched it as a child, do I don’t have the same feelings about it as the rest of you, but in the current tv climate, it was actually a reaaly fun watch. The thing about these post that tickles me so much is that we were talking about Fish and Serp while watching this. I believe my actualy quote was “How long do you think it will take Serpico to audition for this show?” I am glad to have proof that I know my friends well. 😎

  • Fish

    Peiser, yeah, the current Titan was an alternate on the original AG named Thor, but he never actually made it to TV. However, he was a prominent Warrior on the show Battle Dome, known as “Michael O’Dell”. Checking the ‘Pedia, it seems that Justice was a former Battle Domer as well.

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