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Contenders, Ready!
January 18

We're now four episodes deep into the newest iteration of "American Gladiators." The comparisons are inevitable, especially when host Hulk Hogan kicks off with "This isn't your grandmother's American Gladiators." That's for sure.

The differences in the events are striking. Powerball now has a pad around the perimeter of the field (perhaps to encourage harder hits into the wall, who knows). The Joust and Hang Tough are held over the pool. (this is to add to the humiliation of losing to the Gladiators, I guess) Assault now has contestants digging through a sandbox at the third station to find the missile to launch at the fourth.

But that's not all. Now the Eliminator is much, much bigger. From go: the players climb an eight foot wall; then a twenty-foot swim under flames, a thirty-foot cargo net climb, hand bike, barrel roll (stolen from Ninja Warrior), climb up the three-story tall Pyramid, zip line, climb up the Travellator (I swear to God, they call it that here too, not just in England), followed by breaking through the wall of foam bricks to win.

I got tired just typing that. Imagine having to go through all of that. The Eliminator is supposed to test the contenders, not deplete their energy. And yet I've seen several contests where both challengers have been so thoroughly tired from the earlier part that it takes them several tries to climb the ramp.

That covers the events, and while I'm a bit miffed that the powers that be had something good and decided to tinker with it, it's the overall presentation that bothers me.

The Gladiators of the late 1980s and early 1990s was a majestic competition that was taken seriously by all involved, but not to such a degree that it felt forced or overblown. Here, everything is cranked to eleven, from the stilted dialogue between hosts and contenders or Gladiators, to the over-the-top play by play calling of Van Earl Wright, to the background music played during events. It's a constant sound and motion assault in a time when game shows don't give viewers a chance to catch their breath.

It's like a coloring book: as long as you stay within the lines, it doesn't matter what the colors are. It's too bad that the production company used clashing crayons with no regard for the lines.

Contenders ready? Prove it to Travis at