American Gladiators in the 21st Century — Please don't call it Reality TV!

For me, one of the most exciting shows of the winter season (I still can’t believe Nip/Tuck is over, damn you writers strike!) was NBC’s remake of popular game show American Gladiators. This was very exciting for many Americans, who felt like anyone could compete (like bowling) and that it embodied many aspects of the American Dream (work with me here). The media spend for the launch of this show was massive (I think I saw a super bowl ad?) and I believe it was a television success, but it sure did send internet surfers for a loop. At the time of the show (not anymore) I assume that NBC was unable to purchase the domain and was forced to bury its content deep on the NBC home page. In the months leading up to the launch of the show, (October and November 2007) more than 3x as many search terms lead to that domain where users were greeted with an "American Gladiators 2008 — Coming soon" picture that looked like it was straight out of the Nintendo Entertainment System and no link to the NBC site. On average during the first season just over ¼ of all traffic to the Gladiator content on the NBC website came from search.

Once people find the website, the most popular thing for them to do, of course, is view the photos and bios of the steroid freaks"¦ I mean peak conditioned athletes who call themselves gladiators. (Please don’t hurt me.) The top viewed profiles for the female gladiators were Crush (50%) who seems so sweet and innocent until she hits you upside the head with a pugel stick and Helga (44%) who looks like she should wear the Viking helmet on Flavor of Love season 39. For the male gladiators, the Wolf man ties with Titan both at 41% of profile surfers checking them out. Toa, who mimics New Zealand Haka war dances before events, trails them both with 34%. The interesting part comes when you break down which photo galleries people view. Over the three months of the first season almost 80% of all photo gallery traffic viewed photos of Crush. To be fair, she was the featured gladiator towards the end of the season and we don’t blame you for wanting to get a better look. None of the male gladiators were able to muster up more than about 10% with the exception of Titan (very true to his name) at 17% and Wolf (hands down the most clinically insane gladiator) at 13%.

Of people who checked out the new versions of the arena events, the most popular (71%) was a new event, the Earthquake. This event is basically sumo wrestling on a 12-foot diameter platform suspended from the ceiling with bungee chords and the loser is the one who falls to their death, I mean the mats below. The second highest was the 2008 version of the Eliminator (61%) which has basically turned into an endurance race involving swimming under a fire (why doesn’t anyone dive instead of jumping in?) climbing up cargo nets while soaking wet and losing your front teeth when you smash face-first into the inverted treadmill. While this is the culmination of the show, the best part is watching the winner give a speech in between gasping breaths while the other competitor is still completing the course and promptly falls over behind the winner and rolls into the fetal position.

I’ll admit I was very excited for this show when it first was announced, anticipating the first few episodes. I reconnected with my inner hulk-o-maniac and I wore my PJs like it was Saturday morning eating Captain Crunch. A good time and a few laughs were had, but there is one thing that I cannot ever forgive the new producers of the show for"¦ How could you change assault? That was the best event! It’s hard to describe the new version but it seems to be influenced by the creators of Legends of the Hidden Temple and now you have to load the weapons while dodging 100 mph tennis balls. Well, as Wolf likes to say (in-between howling at the ceiling), "I’m still hungry!" and I’m going to keep getting my American Gladiator updates from E’s "The Soup."

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