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Tuesday August 5, 2008 11:12 am

A Final Bow for the Gladiators?

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


In my estimation, has always been something of a ride-it-till-the-wheels-fall-off kind of network. Habitually in fourth place behind all the other major networks, the channel is always striving for a first-place hit. For a brief moment in the winter of the writers’ strike, NBC found television gold in the form of a re-make.

More than twelve million tuned in for the January premiere of the first season of the re-vamped and NBC suddenly had a hit on its hands. Instead of playing it cool or playing it safe, the network went full steam ahead into a second season. Way back in April, before season two’s May premiere, NBC announced tentative plans to bring the show back in the summer of 2009 for yet a third season.

But now the second season of the show has arrived, has been aired and has ended. Will NBC still bring this brutal physical reality competition back for another turn in the TV spotlight?

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Though Gladiators soared over other shows when all the were walking picket lines and no one had new shows to offer, the ratings for season two have been much more dismal. Averaging merely four or five million per episode, NBC quickly changed the format of the show mid-season. Season two was not the triumphant return the network expected.

Season two came back this summer with ninety-minute episodes, brand-new events and a half-dozen new Gladiators. And though it didn’t quite bomb in the strictest sense of the word, it didn’t do so well by network standards, either. After only a few extended episodes NBC quickly dialed the show back to hour-long shows, offering re-caps of events instead of showing them in full. Last year’s season finale was a two-hour special that drew in huge numbers. Last night’s season finale was another two-hour broadcast which was really two episodes shoved together in an effort to bring the show to a swift and speedy close.

At the end of the evening, speedy guy Tim Oliphant and newlywed Ally Davidson took the title of American Gladiators Champion. Each also won a new Toyota and an $100,000 cash prize. I’ve been watching the show all season and I can’t figure what the problem is. Hulk Hogan may use the words “brother” and “Jack” a bit too often as he flexes his huge muscles for the camera, but it’s almost impossible not to like him. Laila Ali may at times seem a little stiff and out-of-place, but she’s gorgeous. The referee has a weird penchant for hand gestures and some of the Gladiators seem more like professional wrestling wanna-bes than TV stars…but it’s still fun to watch. Last night, Tim suffered two sets of stitches and some pretty gnarly contusions in his attempt to best the Gladiators and take the grand prize, and his joy at the end created palpable energy and excitement. In a true show of sportsmanship, his competitor raised Tim’s fist in celebration of the victory, then grabbed him around the waist to launch both into a pool of water. When new wife Ally fell into the water at the end of her exhausting run, her husband (who also competed on the show earlier in the season) ran from the stands to jump into the pool with her.

People, it’s just good TV. The trash-talking might get a little old (and some of the Gladiators definitely are), but it’s one of the most brutal physical competitions you’re ever going to see on network television. Will NBC renew this quickly sinking ship? This will probably depend upon a number of factors - namely, whether or not the network has anything else to fill their summer programming gap.


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