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American Gladiators: New competitors, same Hulk Hogan

By Matt Fowler

Section: Arts

January 25, 2008

hogan.jpgJanuary is usually the month where television comes back from its mid-season break. In a normal year, all your favorite scripted shows have plenty of fresh episodes to finish off the overarching storylines. However, this television season is a little different.

With the writers and television executives still fighting over who gets what money in residuals, the average television viewer is lucky to have their favorite show have any more than one episode left to show. Seeking solace? It comes in the form of the restarted American Gladiators.

Ever since the original American Gladi tors stopped showing up on television my heart has felt a little empty. Although some would argue (they would be wrong of course) that Gladiators was mindless television, the truth is that Gladiators had something for everyone.

Want Drama? Watch the challenger’s interviews where they repeatedly say they are going to win the grand prize so their child can have a better life. Want action? Watch the gladiator pummel the challenger until they fall down clutching their leg screaming in agony during an electrifying game of powerball. Comedy? Have you seen the names of the gladiators? Thus, the question remains, does the new installment even hold a candle to the old one?

What made the original American Gladiators so great was the ridiculousness of the show. The joke was always that those competing took the contests so seriously, that the people watching at home could either squirm from the awkwardness (think a father going all out in game of basketball against his son) or just give in and laugh. Most people would choose the laughter.

With the addition of Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali as the hosts, as well as more events, the show (I’m proud to say) remains as campy as ever. Every time the challengers verbally spar with the gladiators, one cannot help but think that the dialogue could be recycled from rejected scripts of decades past. I for one would not want it any other way.

Honestly, could a viewer really take a show seriously when the biggest question is how long it takes the gladiators to get in their costume every day? The producers have recognized this, and they play up the campy feel of the program.

Of course, there are explosions and burning pools to appeal to the younger viewer (who the producers are probably aiming the show at), but there is more than enough fun for the college student who wants to impress people by being sarcastic and ironic at the same time.

Therefore, this semester when you are trying to pose as someone who procrastinates more than you actually do (you go to Brandeis) there is at least one show that will legitimately allow you to forget your studies for an hour. It’s the show with more laughter-inducing lines than a Stephen Seagal movie. It’s the show with more spandex than a 80s workout video. It’s American Gladiators.

American Gladiators appears every week at 8 P.M. on NBC.

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