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Classic 1990s reality TV show Gladiators ready for a reboot

The original cast had catchy stage names, dramatic costumes and a will to win.

The original cast had catchy stage names, dramatic costumes and a will to win. Photo: Twitter/TVBlackbox

Remember Commando, Flame, Predator or Fury?

Almost 30 years ago, an Australian reality television series hit our screens that caught our imagination like no other, as a bunch of contestants competed in a stack of physical challenges against these guys.

It was the precursor to the modern-day Ninja Warriors series (all solo athletes overcoming difficult obstacles), but this “unique” series pitted members of the public against the in-house (and abovementioned) athletic types – all wearing glitzy super-padded costumes with grid iron-style helmets – and it was a crazy, hot production.

It was called Gladiators, and it had an average viewing audience of a whopping two million viewers over two seasons in 1995 and 1996.

They fought each other swinging from Tarzan ropes, collided to the finish line inside giant metal spherical cages and balanced on beams with pugil sticks to cheers from a live audience against a backdrop of 1990s music and fireworks galore.

As the BBC is set to premiere an 11-episode 2023 version of the show, word is Warner Bros. “is preparing to breathe new life into the enduring Gladiators franchise” here in Australia, according to TVBlackbox.

They say filming is going to start in September in Sydney, and Warner Bros. International Television Production is “looking for experienced unscripted TV production co-ordinators” to join in the “epic revival”.

“TV Blackbox can confirm the reboot will be finding a new home on Australian television with sources at Channel 7 confirming they are not the ones commissioning the revival,” writes the website’s TV expert Kevin Perry.

“Industry rumours suggest Channel 10 as the most likely home for the new-look Gladiators, however a network spokesperson denied any knowledge of the project when contacted by TV Blackbox this week.”

A walk down memory lane

A spin-off series from the 1989 US format, Gladiators was filmed at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre with three series and a total of 54 episodes broadcast over two years from 1995 to 1996 on Seven.

A follow-up series later emerged in 2008.

Judged by tennis champion John Alexander, followed by Test cricketer Mike Whitney, the show had stacks of entertainment value, with a multi-camera set-up.

And the contest went something like this.

The permanent competitors – Gladiators (10 men and nine women) – punch it out against so-called challengers in different physical obstacle course-style events.

In a typical episode, two men and two women compete for points against the Gladiators across four different events, with separate events for males and females.

Each pair then competes against each other in The Eliminator obstacle course, of which any points they have won previously go towards time for a head start on their opponent.

The winner of this is the champion of the episode and then they compete in the finals series.

The fun part is that each Gladiator had a name, and thereafter developed a cult following with audiences.

Cougar, Force, Hammer, Glacier, Rebel, Storm. You get the idea.

Their obstacle courses equally had catchy self-explanatory names, like Atlaspheres (battling inside the cage), Gauntlet, Hang Tough, Hit and Run, Joust, Powerball, Pursuit and Pyramid.

UK version starts filming

The UK version began filming in June, and, according to the RadioTimes website, 13 Gladiators have been announced.

Who are they and what are their new names?

Jamie Christian Johal – who will go by the moniker Giant – was one of the all-time tallest bodybuilders.

Then there’s former Team GB sprinter and Olympic bobsledder Montell Fire Douglas; Legend – Matt Morsia – a former championship bronze medal-winning long and triple jumper and silver medal-winning powerlifter, and Team GB sprinter Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, who will go by the name Nitro, according to RadioTimes.

Diamond, Fury, Steel, Bionic, Electro, Phantom, Athena, Comet and Viper are others.

The series will feature new games alongside classic challenges, as well as the fan-favourite obstacle course The Eliminator.

Managing director of the show’s producers, Hungry Bear, Dan Baldwin said it was the perfect time for Gladiators to return.

“What other show combines electric excitement, superheroes, giant sponge fingers, elite athletes, and a pinch of pantomime?” he said.

“Watch out for the new breed of superhuman, super-sized superstars bursting on to your screens.”

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