One of the biggest guilty pleasures of my youth, American Gladiators, is being revived for 2008. This past Saturday, me and Sandy went to see a taping of the new show at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City. The hosts of the new show are Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali — pretty decent choices in my opinion. When we arrived, they were taping the new “Hit and Run” event in one half of the set, opposite from where we were sitting. In this event, the contestants basically have to dash across a flimsy bridge structure while the gladiators try and knock them into a pool of water below using “demolition balls” (basically tethered medicine balls). We only saw one round of this, but the contestants were pretty conservative, going slow and low — nobody got knocked off. Boo.
On our side of the arena, we got to see Powerball, which, for the uninitiated, involves contestants placing balls into containers in the arena, whilst being deterred from doing so by the gladiators. A bonus for placing a ball in the container in the center of the field provides a risk/reward trade-off. The men’s round, I believe, was dead-even in this event — the gladiators were more focused on stopping the contestants rather than really bringing the pain, so to speak. The women’s round, on the other hand, was a lot more fun to watch, because there were a couple of occasions where the contestants got SLAMMED and THROWN DOWN. Pretty crazy. Even though the show is 100% pure cheese, the actual games themselves definitely seem to be taxing — one of the male contestants came up limping a little bit after Powerball, and the female contestants were pretty much out of breath during the post-event interview. I guess getting BODY SLAMMED will do that to you! (To the producers’ credit, the post-event interviews generally did take place almost immediately after the event — there wasn’t much of a delay in setting up for them.)
We could tell, based on the layout of the arena, what some of the other events are going to be. The Wall is returning — and, now that I have actually done some gym rock climbing, I recognize the fact that it’s generally a very simple course, with lots of monster handholds and lots of choices. I think anyone who’s done a bit of rock climbing would do well at this event — but then, the same thing goes for the gladiators, so it will be interesting to see how this event will play out compared to how it did in the original series. There was also some kind of gigantic half-pyramid structure that contestants would need to ascend while being attacked by gladiators. The steps on the pyramid were probably between 20 and 30 inches high — not a trivial thing to get up. Wikipedia informs me that this event is simply called The Pyramid.
Fortunately, our experience didn’t match that of this other blogger — the taping was actually on schedule, according to a crew member, and there wasn’t too much dead time between takes. We received some cans of an energy drink being promoted during the show, but it didn’t taste too hot, and it didn’t make me want to POUND SOME MORE in an XTREME fashion. The show premieres on January 6th, although I have no idea when the segments we watched will be shown. There’s a decent chance that you’ll be able to pick us out in the footage, though — we were sitting in the 2nd row, near the “friends and family” section. (The parents and other family of several gladiators, as well as the “ref”, were sitting near us, which was pretty funny.)