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Tuesday May 13, 2008 5:18 pm

Gladiators Fail to Slay Competition




Posted by K.C. Morgan Categories: Prime Time, Reality, NBC, Editorial,

American Gladiators Season 2

won big ratings and big press during the writer’s strike, prompting NBC to immediately sign the series for another season, cast new gladiators and create bigger, better events for a triumphant second season return. The season kicked off last night…but was it as victorious as NBC hoped?

Ratings-wise, American Gladiators is already going the way of other shows (to third or last place). FOX’s House led the night, while the Gladiators raked in only about 4.9 million watchers.

The season premiered with bigger obstacles, more competitors and a bevy of new Gladiators, all in hopes that this could be the show to secure NBC a first-place ratings slot. For those of you who didn’t watch it, I did.

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Hollywood Reporter

The show wasted little time in bringing out popular Gladiators from the January season. Titan, Hellga, Crush, Venom, Justice and Wolf were all quickly seen as new competitors challenged themselves on the re-vamped games.

Last year’s winner, known now as the Gladiator Jet, appeared in three different events before the night was over. The male winner, now named Rocket, made his big entrance on The Wall (the event he ruled last season as a competitor). Two new events were revealed, as well as a third new Gladiator (Phoenix).

This season’s Eliminator (the grueling obstacle course competitors must complete to have a chance at winning the big grand prize) has been made even more difficult, and lengthier than the winter season. The initial swim (which includes diving under flames to get to the other side) is longer, the flames doubled in volume. A rope walk has been added and a new balance beam toward the end makes the course much harder than before. The finishing time of the eight competitors (2:06 to 4:27, 11:26 to 3:03, 10:57 to 9:42, 6:20 to 3:21) shows how difficult the course has become.

But it was not the new Gladiators or the new events, nor even the extended Eliminator, which made the season premiere of Gladiators worth watching. Competitor John Sciliano is what made it worth watching, and I’m sorry for those who missed it because he was amazing.

John Sicilano and Hulk HoganSciliano has been without a right leg for over a decade, remaining athletic despite this loss. Last night he gave his all to the competition, finishing only a few points behind the contender he was up against (Gerry Garcia). And when it was time to run the Eliminator, he never hesitated. Though Garcia managed to get ahead of Sciliano early on in the course, the latter kept muscling through. It was painful to see him skip down the rolling cylinder, to slide down the balance beam, to carefully navigate the rope bridge. But it was agony to watch him stumble when he reached the devastating Travelator, the uphill treadmill which has made mincemeat of many a Gladiator competitor. The entire arena chanted his name as he stood before the last obstacle, breathing heavily and bent over double in exhaustion. Minutes before his competitor had already reached the finish line, minutes before the entire outcome had already been decided. None of that mattered in those moments - all that mattered was that John Sciliano finish the course. To screams of delight this one-legged man backed up and jogged toward the horrid device, somehow managing to keep his limbs under him long enough to make the painfully short walk up the ramp.

It was impossible to watch without growing misty in the eyes. Last night, John Sciliano was eliminated from the Gladiator competition. But last night, he proved he is a true hero and winner all the same.

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