was a popular Game Show
that inspired Britain to get fit again from 1992-2000. There were Australian, Finnish, Swedish, South African, and Russian versions too, an international crossover series and a couple of Ashes series between England and Australia
. The show was presented by Ulrika Johnson and John Fashanu for most of its original run. John Sachs, son of Andrew Sachs (Manuel)
, provided commentary. John Anderson was the referee for the original series.
A bunch of contestants each week would compete in a bunch of physical contests against the "Gladiators", all known by a single word descriptor (e.g. Lightning, Warrior, Panther, Wolf). Since all these Gladiators were professional athletes and had won medals too, this meant they had a distinct advantage. The series followed a type of knockout format which resulted in the winners of each show going into a semifinal and then a final. The final episode of the original series pitted Gladiator against Gladiator.
The appeal of the series (and the franchise globally) could be put down to many factors. For one thing, it was a highly competitive and tense show, these were regular people having to go up against the aforementioned trained and professional athletes. As a result, the Contenders were often the underdogs, which added to the stakes. it was also a very adaptable show, while many a Game Show
relies on the same proceedings each episode, the variety of events on display meant no two episodes would be the same. It also allowed for new events to come and go over the years, ensuring less predictability. One thing the UK version amped up was the theatrics, making it more like a drama or soap opera, as a result there were quite a few Professional Wrestling
tropes present, this was usually kept subtle, in order to ensure that people took it seriously.
The show was revived in May 2008 (possibly to due to nostalgia) on Sky1
, where an all-new team of gladiators took on a new group of contenders. It was based on NBC
's American Gladiators
revival, which was based on the original British version, which was based on the original syndicated American Gladiators
. (Got that?
) The show brought back some classic events, replaced crash mats with water tanks, and included its own version of the Eliminator (complete with Travelator). It was presented by Ian Wright, with Kirsty Gallacher in 2008 and Caroline Flack in 2009, also included John Anderson as the referee for Series 1. it also hosted some legends specials pitting the old Gladiators against the new Gladiators, which also saw the return of Wolf. Lackluster ratings and a lukewarm reception saw this show sent the way of a contender to the crash mats (or water tank).
It's hard to really describe the popularity the show had. But to put it simplly, it was the Game Show
of it's time! As has been stated in another article; if Bullseye
was the UK's favourite game of the 1980s, then Gladiators
was the choice of the 1990s. There was tons of merchandise seen in shops, the Gladiators became national celebrities, it was everywhere, it was its own institution. So much so that when the revival did a legends special the returning Glads were given a very warm and enthusiastic reception. Despite the poor revival it's still regarded very fondly by a lot of people, even if it was a bit cheesy. It rode the peak of the UK's Game Show
craze of the 1980s and 1990s...and followed it down, too.
The more popular events included:
- Atlaspheres: The first event of the series shown. Two contenders face two Gladiators and all are caged in large Atlaspheres that they have to propel from within. The contenders' task is to roll the spheres onto any of four scoring pods. They were given 60 seconds to score as many points as they could in this fashion, whilst the Gladiator must block the contenders from scoring.
- Duel: The most iconic event of the show, where a Gladiator and a Contender fought using Pugil Sticks (think oversized cotton buds, and you're nearly there) on raised platforms and try to knock the other one off. 10 points were awarded if the contender knocked off the Gladiator, 5 if they lasted the whole 30 seconds. Women's versions were mostly defensive affairs, the men's one could have the end happen at pretty much any moment.
- Gauntlet: Where the Contender has to run a gauntlet of 5 Gladiators armed with power pads or ramrods, points were awarded for completing each sections and completing the gauntlet within 30 seconds.
- Hang Tough: Another iconic piece. The objective was for the contender to reach the opposite platform by swinging on a grid of rings. 10 points if they made it to the other side or 5 if they were in the scoring zone after 60 seconds. Most of the time the Gladiator would manage to latch onto them and bring them down.
- Pendulum: Where a contender and gladiator participate in a game of "Hide and Seek" on a giant swinging ball suspended above a catch net. The gladiator needs to reach the contender and steal their tag from their back.
- Pyramid: Where the contenders have to try and scale a pyramid guarded by two Gladiators. 10 points were awards for the first contender to reach the top and 5 for the runner up. Notorious for ending Jet's career on the show, the result of which caused the event to be suspended for a year.
- Skytrack: A spectacular event which was 40ft in the air, upside down Scalextric track. The contenders race each other around a figure of 8 while the gladiators try to catch up to them and press a button to eliminate them, the winner is awarded 10 points.
- The Wall: The gladiators need to pursue the contenders up a wall after a head start and try to drag them off. 10 points were awards to the first contender to scale the wall and 5 for the runner up.
After playing six of these events, the two contenders (without any gladiators) then competed in a race on "The Eliminator", an obstacle course whose features varied but always finished with a dash up a 45° moving floor known as the Travelator; this quickly became the most notorious obstacle in the show, due to a lot of contenders finding themselves being unable to run up it thanks to fatigue. Most matches could be won or lost here, and several contenders who would've had no chance of winning thanks to a huge gap could find themselves overcoming the deficit. The game was won or lost solely according to who finished the Eliminator first; the six preceding events were played for points, the leading contender having half a second's headstart on the Eliminator for each point they led by.
Has a few Professional Wrestling
Tropes present, due to some degree of Kayfabe
in the off-stage stuff.
The 1992-2000 version provides examples of:
- Amazonian Beauty
- Action Girl: One year, one of the contestants happened to be a kickboxing champion. The resulting Epic Win probably constituted the show's Moment of Awesome.
- Adaptation Expansion: Look at the American version in comparison, and you'll see a dramatically different show: the U.S. version felt more like a stylized version of something you'd see on Wide World of Sports on a weekend afternoon. The British version took the same basic format Up to Eleven by turning it into a big-budget primetime spectacular. The U.S. viewers and contestants did get to experience the British version during the world championships and the revival, however.
- Anyone Can Die: Inverted; nobody died, but by the end of the run there were only about four of the original Gladiators left. The others had left due to injury, lack of popularity, or having been fired for more controversial reasons. There were also several injuries to contenders over the course of the show which meant the backup contenders were required.
- Catch Phrase: "H'Gladiators....ha-readaaaaaaaaaaaaay!"
- Celebrity Edition: There were four celebrity specials produced between 1993 and 1997. John Fashanu and Sir Steve Redgrave were among the winners.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Pursuit became very popular soon as it appeared, it was essentially a mini Eliminator with Gladiators perusing the Contenders, which added to the tension. However it mysteriously vanished in later series with no explanation as to why.
- Don't Try This at Home: Always said at the end of the episode.
- Fanservice: Jet was pretty much Ms. Fanservice.
- Vogue was also this, more so after Jet retired.
- Foil: Vulcan was brought in from the Australian series to be this to Wolf. YMMV on if this was a good idea.
- Heel: Wolf.
- Large Ham: John Anderson.
- Kayfabe: Some things on the series, like Wolf's personality, was just part of the act and part of the fun. Then again, Ulrika did have an affair with one of the Gladiators.
- Market-Based Title: Duel was renamed from Joust in American Gladiators. A different game called Joust was brought in early in the original run, but was axed for safety concerns.
- Put on a Bus: Whenever a Gladiator left the show.
- Shadow was sacked after it emerged that he took steroids.
- Warrior was ousted after he was found guilty of a firearms offence.
- Phoenix, Flame, and Hawk were fired after a poll voted them the least popular.
- Nightshade, Jet, Zodiac, and Amazon left after injury.
- John Fashanu was replaced as presenter for Series 6-7, only to be brought back for the final series.
- One Steve Limit: well and truly averted with a presenter, commentator and referee all named John.
- Rule of Cool
- Scary Black Man: Shadow
- Special Guest: See Celebrity Edition.
- Spin-Off: Gladiators — Train 2 Win.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Usually when Wolf lost his temper. One time he stole a foam hand from a child spectator and ripped it up. The kid did get an autographed replacement, though. Wolf's temper accounted for his popularity, since he was one of the only Gladiators with any kind of personality.
- Worthy Opponent: All the Gladiators would say this of the contestants win or lose...well, except for Wolf.
- And even Wolf would admit this on occasion. During events though everyone was highly competitive.
The 2008-09 version provides examples of:
- Badass Grandpa: Wolf, by the time of the revival was pushing 60! Yet still had a physique that could rival people half his age! he had also lost none of his temper and ferocity.
- Hotter and Sexier: Skimpier outfits and stuff taking place over water...
- Heel: Wolf wannabe/Expy Oblivion, now seen in TNA as Brutus Magnus — where he is more often than not a Heel.
- Ms. Fanservice: Inferno. Really, any female gladiator that isn't Battleaxe.
- Hulkspeak: Goliath