Monday, January 7, 2008

It's Back in Black (and Silver)

It happened last night, and I had a front row seat. The TV tuned to Deal or No Deal, Howie Mandel’s glistening head, Corey Feldman and Deborah “Debbie” Gibson of 80s fame on the screen, but most importantly, the countdown clock on the left side of the screen. 5 Minutes. 3 Minutes. 2 Minutes. 1 Minute. Hold my breath in anticipation, then it happened.

It started with a black screen and a mini montage of the early 90s Mullets flowing, steroid induced rage, glistening bodies in tight spandex. It was my childhood coming back to me. Then we got our first look into Gladiator Arena. I was giddy with anticipation. The Red and Blue exchanged for Silver and Black in a Raider fan’s wet dream. This Gladiators is bigger and more important.

Winners move along, bracket style (with eliminator times being the seeding), until a champion is crowned and gets an opportunity to do what many have dreamed and few have done. They will move on from David to Goliath and become a Gladiator themselves. This I’m not a huge fan of since the male Gladiators range from about 6’3” 230 to 6’8” 290. A 6’1” 195 accountant/weekend warrior doesn’t strike fear in me. Also Mayhem is Mayhem, Justice is Justice, and so on, they are their personas, they have no other name in our eyes. How are we supposed to feel when there is a Gladiator named “Anthony” and the winner can’t all of a sudden change his name to “Diablo” or something else. It’s not right.

I love Wolf. I believe he was in my Gladiator preview a couple weeks back, he howls and barks, he lives up to the name. I would be a little frightened to see him waiting for me at the top of “Pyramid” growling. Titan is playing the Capt. America role, the moral leader of the Gladiators. Then there is Toa who I also mentioned. The Rock’s cousin comes out in full Samoan dress. He has a short leather sarong, the tribal tats and does a mini version of the Haka.

The Wall, Powerball, Hang Tough, Pyramid, Assault, Gauntlet, and Joust have all returned to grace our TV screens. As has a version of The Eliminator. In a strike of genius and parity the producers/developers have decided to put the uphill treadmill at the end, when the contestants are thoroughly defeated. As we saw with Koya (“The Destroyer” as called by her fans) you can be leading by leaps and bounds but if your body is too tired to make it up the treadmill at the end it doesn’t matter. In what was the highlight of the show, in my opinion, she fell flat on her face about 12 times and the stand-by replacement came back from a ridiculous deficit to win. The two new events (debuted so far) are “Hit and Run” and “Earthquake”. Hit and Run is running back and forth on a bridge while 100 lb wrecking balls are swung back and forth by 4 Gladiators, and Earthquake is wrestling on a moving/swinging platform. Another new addition is the neck braces Gladiators and Contestants have to wear in half of the events. There is a lot of unecessary extra padding compared to past Gladiator memories.

In the first episodes we had blood on the face of an Ex-Marine, Bonnie, who cracked her forehead on the gas lines in the pool (they swim under fire in the new AG) and a knee/leg injury that was never fully explained by one of the female contestants. She was on crutches after pulling what appeared to be a Milton Bradley move in Powerball, crumpling for no apparent reason. We had a contestant, Jeff, who missed his opportunity 14 years ago (LA traffic made him late) go in and do very well for a man in his late 30s or more likely early 40s. He also got warned and had to restart in the Gauntlet after throwing punches at Wolf and Titan. In the debut of Earthquake it looked like one of the ladies was about to take the Gladiator, Fury, off the platform, but Fury was able to grab the rope suspending the platform and fling the contestant off, to land back on the platform. It was a pretty spectacular move. Other highlights included the former/current contestant/old man trying to flip Wolf over him while climbing the Pyramid, unfortunately for him Wolf grabbed ahold and wound up essentially power bombing the old man off the climb. There was also an attempt by Toa at a kill shot tackle that was ducked by the Contestant “Double A” and allowed him to make it to the 5 point line as time expired.

It's also fun to try and see how many times a show Hulk said "Brother", in one interview I could have sworn he said it at least 8 times in a minute. That's high even for his record. And alas I do miss Mike Adamle and Larry Csonka. What are they doing that's so important they can't do the play-by-play and color for the new Gladiators. In fact, isn't former announcer Theisman out of a job since being fired from MNF?

The 3rd episode is on tonight, during the National Championship game. I don’t expect many to watch it live, but it is definitely on the DVR at my house to watch post game. And as for Koya the Destroyer, to quote Brian Regan, did she think that rhymed, Koya the Destroy-er. (His was about Dora the Explor-er) if you haven’t seen his new stand up on Comedy Central “Standing Up” be on the lookout for it, he did most of that material when he was here in Tucson and I was in tears. What's the best thing about the return of AG, the chance that a Video game is in the makes. Imagine XBOX 360/PS3 or the Wii playing AG. Amazing.