I hated Gladiators. I hated that annoying little referee with his distinctive “Are Yoooooo Readdy?” bellow. I hated the idiotic audience with their big foam hands. I especially hated it when they played Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ which, every time I have heard it since, has made me feel strangely violated.
So, naturally, I was delighted that Sky One have decided to bring the show back, with twelve brand new Gladiators to compete against various masochistic members of the public, presented by Ian Wright and Kirsty Gallagher.
The old Gladiators – Jet, Hunter, etc - used to perform in fairly standard, athletics-style lycra outfits. This time, that seems to have been jettisoned in favour of individual outfits and more pronounced characters. So new Gladiator women include Ice; a slim attractive blonde sporting a turquoise bikini and no discernable muscles. (Having said that, she does look like she could lap-dance you to death.) Battleaxe has a pleated skirt, formidable boobs and the physique of Ram Man from He Man and The Masters of the Universe. Enigma looks like Posh Spice. I suspect that Panther’s special skill may be that she resembles Grace Jones, which, if you saw her on Parky with Russell Harty, is a frightening thing indeed.
On the men’s side there’s a new Hunter in the form of Atlas. Wow, that body…it must have taken ages. In his hair I mean. His abs aren’t bad either. Then there’s Spartan, who looks like the sixth member of Take That and Oblivion, a cross between Jeremy Kyle and Jamie Theakston, who shows his nasty streak by doing the ‘nag nag nag’ hand gesture while the contestants are speaking. Brrr scary.
Actually, they’ve all been to the Simon Cowell school of panto behaviour this time round. Cue lots of glowering looks to camera and mouthing off about how lame the contestants are. This is probably a mistake; there’s only room for one bad guy on a team. Remember Wolf – he of crap bandana and bad attitude? He was adored by the nation for being a nasty, misanthropic bully. He now lives in New Zealand and runs an indoor play centre called Chipmunks Playground. Ahh bless. In an even more shocking about-face, Hunter, aka James Crossley, has shaved his head and now looks rather tasty. Ulrika, I take it all back.
Ahem, anyway, back to the games. So far this series the trials include some old favourites like Hang Tough plus new additions like Earthquake, in which Gladiator and contestant attempt to push each other off a giant Perspex disc suspended from the ceiling. “No wrestling,” bellows midget referee John Anderson, although quite how else they’re meant to knock each other off remains a mystery. Gentle persuasion? Mind control? Perhaps Posh will sing them off.
In Hit and Run the contestants have to leg it across a bridge whilst the gladiators swing giant pillows at them. This gives the voice-over man a wonderful opportunity for double entendres: “Four very tough ladies with very big balls.” There is also water below them, instead of crash mats, which must making falling even more of a chore.
The format is slightly different this time, too, with contestant interviews before the games revealing a little bit about them. So we hear that Tom is a teacher from Shrewsbury, or that Gayle plays Lacrosse, which I suppose might be handy to know whilst you’re watching them get smacked off a podium by a giant cotton bud.
As usual the contestants compete to gain an advantage on the eliminator. They have to dive into water, swim under fire and then clamber along a giant cotton reel, which is a nice surreal touch and made me think that the show would be much improved if they could only shoehorn in some more bizarre elements – like melting clocks or holograms of dead relatives. Anyway, then they have to cross the monkey bars, climb a pyramid, all to get to “the dreaded travelator” which is the only bit of the show I enjoy. I like it when they are just too tired to get up. It reminds me of the time my dad greased a drainpipe to stop squirrels invading the loft. Sadly, no slippery squirrel behaviour so far this series.
In the first episode they seemed to have got rid of the trademark cringey Queen song in favour of Britney’s Baby One More Time but, presumably at the behest of outraged fans sitting at home with bated breath wearing their foam hands, Another One Bites The Dust was, sadly, back by Episode Two. Gah.
Other gripes: Presenters Wright and Gallagher seem to lack – and I can’t believe I am about to say this - the charisma of Ulrika, perhaps because we can’t picture either of them bonking one of the cast, and the show, if anything, just made me feel fondly for the 90s version, which is an extreme reaction indeed but possibly not what Sky One were going for. Still, if the new Gladiators fail to win fans, this will at least guarantee viewers for the forthcoming ‘Legends’ episode in which old skool Gladiators take on the new kids on the block. Here’s hoping Hunter’s strength wasn’t all in his barnet.
Gladiators, Sky 1, Sunday, 10pm