“At my signal, unleash hell.”
— Maximus to his troops, in Gladiator
So Karen asked me last night if I was serious in my new year’s post about watching American Gladiators. My response was, “Um, yeah.” Duh. I was psyched for this to start – Nate and I used to watch this every Saturday (I think) at noon because we didn’t have cable and it was the only thing on. Plus, it was awesome. The original Gladiators had names like Malibu, Lace, Blaze, Nitro, Turbo, and Jade (thanks, Wiki!). They were pitted against average Joe and Jane contestants in contests like The Wall (scale the rock-climbing wall while being chased by a Gladiator intent on pulling you off the Wall), Joust (just what it sounds like, except on three-foot wide platforms 15 feet above water), and Assault (shoot a variety of weapons using tennis balls as ammo at a target suspended above a Gladiator armed with a tennis-ball-shooting gun – get hit once and you’re toast).
This “revival” of AG now airing on NBC (Mondays, 8pm) is terrible. Like, can’t-stop-watching-even-though-I-want-to-poke-my-eyes-out terrible. I freaking love it. The male Gladiators this time are named Toa, Militia, Justice (oooh, scary, especially with that triangle mohawk), Titan, Mayhem, and Wolf (I hate him; he howls – that’s original). The girls are called Siren, Fury (who has one of those super-long, top-of-the-head ponytails, complete with a conical ponytail holder thing), Venom, Stealth, Crush, and Hellga (yes, with 2 l’s – clever isn’t it?).
Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali “host,” but it’s clear the two of them have taken too many shots to the head in their careers, because they can’t read cue cards to save their lives. And writers’ strike or not, and “reality TV” label notwithstanding, this show is scripted. Badly. Even the contestant interviews and insults from the Gladiators are cliched sound bites.
And the puns. Oh god, the puns. The only one I can remember – because they’re so groan-worthy I forget them as soon as possible – was that one of the girls was going to have to work hard to “snake” her way past Venom. Snake. Get it? Get it? Just kill me now.
Tonight they had two contestants from the South, and boy did they milk it. The guy, who they said was nicknamed “Big Country” (as if anyone is really ever nicknamed Big Country), kept talking about how back home in Tennessee, they mud wrestle and hog wrestle, so this should be a piece of cake. The girl kept saying that her “Mama” (which the captions spelled “Momma” so it’s even more southern) was her hero and taught her never to give up. Christ. Those two just set the South back 20 years.
These contestants, though, they are hard core. They’re always talking about giving 110%, and last night one of them even went so far as to promise 200%! Can you believe it? That’s like 1.8 times the regular amount of effort! Unreal. One guy last night was the sentimental favorite – he tried out 14 years ago for the original AG, made it, but got stuck in LA traffic and missed his taping time slot. Too bad he was an asshole and no one was rooting for him. And this other girl rammed her forehead so hard against a metal pipe while swimming under a 20-foot long plank of FIRE that she completed the rest of the obstacle course with blood streaming down her face. In all seriousness, that was awesome. Not the ramming of the forehead, of course, because, ouch – but the blood.
The biggest change is that the format, instead of just being a season-long tournament for money, has changed so that the final 8 competitors (4 men and 4 women) will compete for a spot in next season’s (that’s optimistic) group of Gladiators. What a great prize. I assume NBC will pay for the requisite plastic surgery for the female winner (and maybe the male, too, if Titan is any indication).