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Gladiators 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. 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 ahainst Gladiator.
The show was revived in May 2008 (possibly to due to nostalgia) on Sky 1, 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, 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. Described as a game of "Aerial Chess" due to the cunning needed, Fetish Fuel for some since a lot of dry humping was needed to bring contenders 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.
The top two contestants 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 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: The European versions of the show were a huge contrast from the American version; while the American version portrayed itself as a typical Saturday afternoon sporting event, the European versions turned the show into a spectacle akin to the typical American Professional Wrestling program!
- 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.
- Don't Try This At Home: Always said at the end of the episode.
- Fan Service: Jet was pretty much Ms. Fanservice.
- Foe Yay
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The 2008-09 version provides examples of:
- Foe Yay: In series one, one female contender pulled off Panther's clothes in Earthquake.
- Hotter and Sexier: Skimpier outfits and stuff taking place over water...
- Heel: Wolf Expy Oblivion, now seen in TNA as Brutus Magnus -- where he is still a Heel.
- Ms. Fanservice: Inferno. Really, any female gladiator that isn't Battleaxe.
- Hulk Speak: Goliath