There are some situations where you are embarrassed for people taking part in a particular television series. And, to a certain extent, this applies to American Gladiators, a series which very few people were really asking for. NBC’s decision to bring back the series was puzzling at first, but with the Writers’ Strike it actually ended up helping them tap into the childhood of viewers within the key 18-34 demographic.
[Edit: For the curious, the ratings for American Gladiators were solid, especially amongst key demos. PIFeedback has all the details, but the long and short of it is that it has the potential to be a huge hit if it keeps those demo numbers this evening.]
In the end, you have to be somewhat embarrassed for some of the individuals involved. Laila Ali was a high-profile boxer, but Dancing with the Stars has opened doors for her to…host this series? For some of the Gladiators, specifically stereotypical samoan Toa and howling and hairy Wolf, it must be hard to play roles more one-dimensional than anything seen in professional wrestling (And no, this isn’t embarrassing for Hulk Hogan, it is his calling). And, for some of the competitors, getting their asses kicked on national television can’t possibly be all that attractive for their future, especially when they’re competing for a middling $100,000 prize.
But I cannot possibly be cynical about something that knows it is this corny and is aware of just how simplistic this process is. If the show took itself seriously, I would criticize it. If it became so corny that the competitive element became worthless, I would criticize it. But through the series’ first two hours, I couldn’t help but geek out at the first round of Assault or enjoy watching people struggle their way through the Eliminator (And boy, did they struggle – one finished with blood all over their face, and others were essentially dead upon finishing).
But I don’t think I’m going to be tuning in every week, mainly because of how repetitive this series will become. Hype and Hulk Hogan doesn’t change the fact that this is the type of show we watch when there’s nothing else on – and while the strike may result in a large sampling, I don’t really think I’ll be changing my TV standards just because there’s less quality programming. American Gladiators is not bad, but it simply isn’t something I would normally spend an hour of my time watching. I will not remember these people’s names, and their dreams and goals will not be enough to keep the series in my mind after this evening.