PremiereWatch: 'American Gladiators'

Crush Though the May Sweep isn't yet over, it seems as thought he summer television season has arrived. Not only is perennial summer fare like Hell's Kitchen in full swing, but tonight the second season of American Gladiators began, and if that doesn't feel like "summer television," I don't know what does.

The show certainly started with a bang, and a rocking new opening. I was a little upset though that Wolf seemed to be tossing a Hit and Run medicine ball during the title sequence. That indicated that Hit and Run would be back for this season and I just can't imagine why they would subject us to more of that nonsense. It's an awful game. It doesn't really require the gladiators to do more than throw a medicine ball that's on a tether and contestants to walk across a rickety bridge. It's not much of a test of skill or strength.

Hulk, Laila, and the announcer did promise us that there would be lots of new stuff this season, including 8 new gladiators, 7 new events, and a brand-spanking new Eliminator (more on that later).

And though not new, there would be Crush. Crush would be back. Crush I tell you, Crush (she stayed undefeated in Pyramid and won in Joust, but even if she lost she'd be undefeated in my heart).

The premiere for this season was a two hour "event." The first hour had Randee (a construction worker) up against Jay (a SWAT team leader). On the women's side Elena (a firefighter) and Melissa (a mixed martial arts instructor) went head-to-head. The men were kind of silly and annoying, but the women barely scored any points heading into the Eliminator and thus were greatly disappointing. The both picked up goose eggs in the first two rounds and I think they only scored in the next round because they were playing Assault and it's hard not to score in that. Elena actually fired the bazooka backwards there. I think they should have taken points away for that, but that didn't happen.

The second hour on the men's side had Gerry (a special ed. teacher) battling John (a prosthetics manufacture who actually also has a prosthetic leg). Now, Gerry's last name is Garcia and yet there were absolutely no jokes made about it. I'm not quite sure why that is. I had six or seven instantly come to mind, I'm sure you did too. Is there some sort of copyright problem with such a joke? The women's matchup had Vanessa (a U.S. Air Force Major) against Nikki (a bartender). Nikki got knocked out in her first event due to an ankle strain and was replaced by another Nikki (a sixth grade teacher). Was that just by chance? Was that planned? Shouldn't it have been planned differently?

As for the new events...

The first new event we saw tonight was Rocket Ball. For this, both contestants and two gladiators had packs on their backs that attach the folks to lines that go up to the roof of the arena. Upon pressing a button on the floor, the contestants and gladiators are "rocketed" up into the air (their line is pulled in by something in the ceiling very quickly). The contestants try to throw balls they've picked up on the ground into one of two baskets that are suspended in the air. The gladiators job is much more simple, they just have to hurt the contestants.

Rocket Ball certainly has potential, but it's first (and second) appearance was uninspiring. The hits weren't particularly hard and few baskets were scored. Maybe the gladiators and contestants just need more time to work out how best to play it, but I think not. The whole button-push leading to a launch in the air didn't work for me. If it were more of a bungee situation and the contestants controlled their jump heights it would be better than this machine-aided silliness.

The second new event we saw was Vertigo. Here one contestant and one Gladiator climb up a 30 foot pole (a different pole for each of them) that sways back and forth and back and forth. Gladiator and contestant have to move from one pole to the next down a line of a half-dozen or so. If the contestant makes it to the end first they get 10 points, and if not, they can still get 5 points by making it halfway.

I don't think we saw enough tonight of Vertigo to say whether it's a good event or not, but it's certainly interesting. Hopefully it'll come back in later episodes and we'll get a better feel for it.

And the new gladiators...

The first new gladiator we saw tonight was the woman's champ from the first season, now known as Jet. Her first event was the Wall (which is new, bigger, and better). In a poor showing, she did not catch her prey. She almost did, but almost doesn't count. She did perform better in Pyramid in the second hour of the show, where she did deny the contender points.

The second new gladiator who debuted was Phoenix. She has ridiculous wings (yes, they come off before she competes) and purplish-pinkish hair. Sure, she did a great job in Vertigo, but she has purplish-pinkish hair and fake black wings. I thought for a minute Victoria's Secret was releasing something new to their Angels line when I saw her. I'm pretty sure I'm not a fan.

Lastly, we met Rocket, the men's champ from last season. As you may remember, he was ridiculously fast. Compared to the other gladiators, he's also ridiculously small. Were I a contestant I wouldn't mind going up against him in Power Ball, but I'd rather not face him in a speed-based contest.

There were some changes to old events tonight too...

The new Eliminator seemed vastly improved. Gone is that silly wall at the beginning that almost everyone could jump over without any problem. The underwater swim is longer, it's much costlier to drop off the hand bike, and there are couple of other added bits and pieces. It took the first group of women over 9 and a half minutes to get through it. The show ended up editing much of it out because it was, presumably, just them falling down off the travelator over and over again. Seems good to me.

Hang Tough has a far larger playfield this season. I think it makes it more interesting and wholeheartedly applaud the change.

The field for Power Ball is also larger, and the openings of the scoring buckets smaller. I like the smaller openings, but I think the old field allowed for better hits and more contact. Kind of a toss up as to whether I like the old version or new one more.

They also rejiggered Assault slightly, no longer forcing contestants to dig in the sand for a projectile to be used at the next station, instead there's a bazooka sitting in the sand that's ready to be fired. Also a good addition.

That's my take, but what's yours? What did you think of the new events and the changes to the old ones? How about the new gladiators? Good? Bad? Ugly? Can they possibly sustain having that many gladiators on the show? 7 new ones? There were a ton we barely saw last season already.

What about The TV and Film Guy's Reviews? Pretty swell, right?

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