I watched my share of American Gladiators in college. It was good campy entertainment, perfect for those early weekend afternoons before we either flipped to basketball or did something constructive with our time.
The revamped and regally hyped remake is interesting … for five minutes or so.
The problem is pacing. For a show that thrives on action, there’s entirely too much waiting around while people with nothing interesting to say attempt to convince you that the next bit of action is going to be really intense. Then you wait some more while the referee checks to make sure the contestants and gladiators are ready.
He does this before every … single … event.
I guess it’s supposed to build tension, but it just sounds like a pilot going over a preflight checklist. Perhaps I shouldn’t give the Gladiator gang any ideas, lest we hear this: “Helmet … check … armpads … check … shoelaces … check …”
They’ve also kept some of the most boring games. Once you’ve seen a gladiator firing tennis balls at a hapless contestant trying to fire back with some unwieldy contraptions, you really don’t need to see it again.
The “Pyramid” is pretty good — contestants climbing a big stack of gym pads with gladiators chasing them, and it’s perfectly legal to fling the gladiator back down to the floor. The final “Eliminator” obstacle course is disturbingly hard now that contestants have to swim under an island of fire. Didn’t the Village People sing something about that? Or Johnny Cash?
Anyway — Gladiator just isn’t prime-time fare. It’s good cheesy Saturday afternoon fun if you don’t have anything to do at the moment. Nothing more.
American Idol, on the other hand, continues to serve a valuable and necessary role in our public discourse. The early rounds of the show are an important reminder of the perils of self-delusion. Mrs. MMM reminded me of the one word that sums up the auditions — entitlement. These people honestly think they deserve to be the next Kelly Clarkson just because they want it to be so.
Sure, MMM Jr. thinks the same thing, but he’s 4. These people are old enough to vote.
In every drama I see, I demand to see comeuppance for the idiots and jerkwads. That carries over to Idol, and that’s why it’s the only reality show I’ll watch.
Besides, tonight’s episode made me break into a Howard Jones parody …
Don’t try to wax your chest in one day / Don’t go yank your hair away …
Howard Jones, incidentally, is on an acoustic tour. This is the guy who was so reliant on synths and sequencers that a reviewer once wondered if the show would go on if he keeled over mid-song. Nice to see him sticking around and shaking up the old image.