Thursday, December 13, 2007

Seven Things That Barely Have to Do With Personal Finance, But That’s Too Bad Because American Gladiators Is Coming Back!

Author: Nick
Category: Money

contender READYYYYY, gladiator READYYYYY

Faithful readers of Punny Money will know that I have a mild, unhealthy obsession with NBC’s hit TV show Heroes. I mention it here at least every three or four articles, but I assure you all that will certainly stop now that the second season kind of sucked and the Writers’ Strike means the show will likely never return. Indeed, I forecast that the demise of television in the early 21st century that was predicted on that one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation is coming to pass as we speak.

But before TV goes the way of the Betamax, it will squeeze out one last hurrah this January with the return of the greatest televised action game show of all time, American Gladiators. (Put your hands down; Double Dare is number two.) For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of American Gladiators, I invite you to read two detailed Wikipedia articles on the subject: American Gladiators and American Gladiators events. Or be lazy and read my summary:

  • The premise. Normal, everyday people (most of whom take steroids in the weeks before the game) take on super-powered demi-humans with individual muscles bigger than your entire body. The winner is the normal, everyday person who manages to survive being pummeled with pugil sticks and tennis balls the longest.
  • The events. Without a doubt, the brightest minds in the entire world converged in a Hollywood studio in the late 1980s to dream up the most brilliant sporting events ever created. In one event, challengers must shoot various Nerfitized weapons at a target above a gladiator’s head while the gladiator tries to decapitate the challenger with a tennis ball launcher capable of exceeding 100 miles per hour. Other events include giant wall climbs, upside-down Velcro race tracks, human-sized hamster ball rolling, and one last event called The Eliminator.
  • The Eliminator. Probably the finest two minutes of television in history. The two contestants race each other through an obstacle course suited for God himself. Reverse treadmills, zip lines, hand bikes… just thinking about it makes me all tingly.
  • The production. The set design, host personalities, costume design—really, everything about the show was perfect. Let’s hope the upcoming remake doesn’t screw it up.
  • The video game. I had the American Gladiators video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was terrible. Let us never speak of it again.

At this point, you’re probably asking yourself one question: Has Nick finally gone horrendously off-topic with this post about the greatest TV game show ever made?

The answer is “almost.” I can still manage to salvage this article as on-topic by working in the following bulleted list which somehow ties together personal finance and American Gladiators.

  1. As a kid, I spent over $200 on American Gladiator action figures. And they’re all in the trash now. What a waste. Compare that to about $50 worth of G.I. Joe figures and around $40 for the complete Darkwing Duck figure set. Most of the expense was in the playsets; it ain’t cheap making miniature climbing walls and tiny human-sized hamster balls… though I suppose those would just be normal-sized hamster balls.
  2. Planning a trip to L.A.? Then stop by the CBS Studio Center where the original Gladiator Arena is still set up and available for tours.
  3. The biggest Gladiator prize during its original run? Just $30,000 for winning a later season’s grand championship. You could get more than that now being mildly retarded on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
  4. Worldwide popularity. American Gladiators was the chief U.S. export of the early 1990s, with versions running in Australia, the UK, and even Japan. Of course, it wasn’t called “American Gladiators” in those other countries… except for Japan whose show was named Gekitotsu Americane Kin-niku Battle.
  5. Kid’s version. In 1994, there was a version of the show called, of all things, Gladiators 2000 featuring teenage contestants. Events were similar but often incorporated lessons about nutrition and health. The show failed miserably after the producers realized you’re not supposed to mix education and American Gladiators.
  6. Set costs. The entire American Gladiators set for the original run, including all equipment and props for every event, only cost $12 because it was all made out of styrofoam and sponge. The skyrocketing cost of styrofoam in the last decade means reconstructing the set today would cost over $16 million.
  7. NBC putting all its eggs in one basket? With no end in sight to the Writer’s Strike, scripted television may be gone for good. You’ll see more and more shows like American Gladiators hitting the airwaves, but the most successful networks in 2008 may be those with existing strong lineups of reality programming. NBC has never been strong in reality programming. Case in point: right now, NBC’s top reality show is probably Deal or No Deal—a show that glamorizes the concept of “pick a number between 1 and 26.” AG could be NBC’s big hope for ratings in the new year, but it better make sure to stay true to the original series or it could alienate fans hoping for some nostalgic Gladiator fun.

To get you psyched for the upcoming American Gladiators series, here are some video clips from the original featuring plenty of ’80s hair and 100 mph tennis balls.

The Intro:

Assault: (my personal favorite event)


Hang Tough:


The Eliminator:

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