If you’ve got Sky, you cannot fail to have noticed all the hype surrounding the return of Gladiators, which in it’s previous incarnation was a staple of the ITV Saturday evening schedules throughout the nineties. The re-launch follows the successful return of American Gladiators, the series on which the UK programme was based.
As it was on after Lost last night, we took a look to see what it was like.
Interestingly in the run up to the launch of the new show, Sky showed a number of programmes with celebrity fans of the old series commenting on aspects they remembered. Ironic really that a number of the aspects mentioned on those shows by the fans as being essential were missing from the new programme.
First off, the music has entirely changed. Gone is the slightly cheesy rock/pop title song, and now there is a not overly memorable title song, also missing are the Queen songs that were such a staple of the previous show, and which all the audience would sing along with. Indeed that brings us on to another change, in that whilst the old series was filmed in the National Indoor Arena with a seating capacity of thirteen thousand, the new show is on a much smaller scale with a relatively small audience, and with very limited space due to much of the equipment for each game being permanently set-up rather than the way it was cleared in and out on the the old series. This reduced scale also impacts on the final eliminator where the eliminator course actually crosses over itself with the crash mat at the end of the zip line also being the crash mat for the finish – surely a health and safety issue. Certainly the scale of the arena is such that I suspect we’re not going to be seeing games like Pendulum or Skytrak.
The one final aspect was the characters of the Gladiators themselves. By the end of the old series most of them had pretty clear personalities, and after one show with the new team, we haven’t seen much aside from a rather cringe making attempt at the villain role that Wolf used to fill from Oblivion – hopefully those aspects will come with time.
In terms of the ratings, it is reported that the programme pulled in 1.5 million viewers, a big total for Sky on a hot summer early evening – however the real test will be whether it maintains the same level, as the reviews have been rather mixed to say the least. Of course it was never really high-brow entertainment in the first place, so what the reviewers think will probably have little effect. Perhaps the main competition though will come from the old series itself which still airs over on Challenge – certainly any perceived flaws in the revival will be magnified by the ease with which people can compare old with new.