American Gladiators (1989-1996)
This is another example of a game show that started in America, before coming to the UK, and also going on to be a big success in many other versions around the world. This was the show where athletes competed against the might of the Gladiators in various challenges, and you really did have to be rather fit to beat them. One of the main hosts was Mike Adamle, and you’ll soon see why I am rather familiar with that name (not just because the surname is almost the same as my first name).
The format of American Gladiators was fairly similar to what we got in this country. Two male and two female contestants competed against each other in usually around six games, to try and score some points, but the Gladiators will aim to stop them. They all had the usual names that made them sound all big and tough like Laser, Nitro, and Zap, there were lots of them. Some of the games were rather familiar too, with the Duel being among the most famous. The referee always had to make sure that they were keeping track of the action.
Can the amateurs beat the professionals at their own game? Well whatever points were scored by the contestants were then taken into the final challenge which was the Eliminator, a demanding obstacle course that really will test their strength. Let’s hope that they’re fit enough. This was a knockout format, with the winner progressing to the next round, and the overall series champion winning a cash prize, usually around $10,000. along with lots of acclaim.
One thing that is interesting about American Gladiators is that it was presented almost as if it was sport coverage more than a game show, with plenty of breathless commentary, along with analysis of how the contestants have performed, and also a rather enthusiastic crowd. There were seven series of the show, that led to a computer game, along with a soundtrack of the music used.
The UK version launched in the early-90s, and proved to be a good hit with viewers, enhancing Saturday nights on ITV. After a while there was an international special that was held in this country, where contestants and Gladiators from across the world competed, and Adamle was also one of the hosts of this, I hope he managed to put up with John Fashanu.
And the original US version was also shown in this country on ITV, although rather late at night. As I had got into the British version, out of curiosity I decided to set the video for an edition one night, which just happened to be the grand final (which was co-hosted by Adamle), so there was a lot at stake and it was all rather exciting. And just like in the UK in the late-2000s, there was a revival of the format in America, which would run for a couple of series.