The YouTube Files – Gladiators USA.

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. vlcsnap-00024

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. vlcsnap-00027

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. vlcsnap-00025

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.vlcsnap-00026

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.

Game Show Memories – Gladiators.

Gladiators (ITV, 1992-2000)

This was the action game show based on American format where contestants competed against the mighty Gladiators in the challenge to prove who is the best. The presenters were Ulrika Jonsson and John Fashanu, and Jeremy Guscott also hosted a series.

Each edition of Gladiators was an hour long, took place in an arena in front of a big crowd, and featured competitions for male and female contestants. The idea was that the contestants would take part in various games against the clock to score points while the Gladiators would try and stop them. The games would also feature breathless commentary by John Sachs and a referee who seemed to endlessly blow his whistle. vlcsnap-01478

There were a variety of games on offer. Some of the most memorable ones were Atlaspheres, where contestants were encased in a large sphere and had to roll over targets to score points, Powerball, where contestants had to swing on ropes to collect balls and put them in their basket for points, and most famously Duel, a one-on-one battle with a Gladiator to try and knock them off their stand in 30 seconds. vlcsnap-01479

The contestants would then take their points to the Eliminator. The leading contestant would be given a half-second head start for every point that they were ahead. The final was essentially an obstacle course, with the winner who successfully negotiated the final and toughest obstacle going through to the next round, and there were some exciting finishes. vlcsnap-01481

Gladiators went on to be a big success with viewers, especially younger ones, and ITV was thrilled to have a Saturday night hit on their hands. I was among those who did like to watch the show regularly in the 90s. Naturally ITV started to milk the format somewhat, with a lot of the Gladiators such as Jet, Warrior and many others going on to become stars themselves and appearing in several other programmes. vlcsnap-01480

There would go on to be several variations of the Gladiators format, including a version featuring child contestants on CITV called Train 2 Win, plus many others including celebrity specials, and international versions. Unsurprisingly there was a lot of merchandise released including many toys and VHSs and when the show went on tour lots of people turned up to watch their heroes. And of course, they were all given those oversized sponge hand things which supposedly create an exciting atmosphere. vlcsnap-01482

However, the show did begin to run out of steam by the end. The final series was a special champion of champions version that was exclusively shown only on the OnDigital platform, which was then shown on ITV a few months later in a rather minor slot at the end of 1999 which brought the run to an end after seven action-packed years.

Somewhat inevitably there was a revival about a decade after the original run of Gladiators ended, but the idea was about a decade past its best by then. It is still fondly remembered by lots of viewers though, and there have been repeats on Challenge on the early series when it really was a successful show.