Recently, I discovered that NOW TV had six series of Gladiators available to watch on demand. I’m such a huge fan of Gladiators (bigger than I even realised, as a couple of episodes in, the theme tune made me a bit weepy!) and although I’ve seen clips and odd episodes over the last decade or so, this is potentially the first time I’ve been able to watch a concentrated batch of Gladiator goodness.
(And we’re talking really concentrated. Like, ten episodes across the course of 36 hours. Which didn’t happen. At all.)
I don’t know what it is about the show that I love so much, but I know there are some things about it that are so much greater than TV shows these days. Firstly, many of the contenders are participating to be a role model for other people - usually kids. They put health and fitness above many other hobbies and want to go on this show to encourage others to do the same.
Secondly, the exploits are all taken seriously. This is no Ninja Warrior or Total Wipeout, where the contestants are all made to look stupid. These are serious people who have trained to participate in the events, both contenders and Gladiators alike.
And there’s a wonderful sense of camaraderie. Sure, there’s plenty of competitiveness floating around, there’s the odd moment of tension, and there’s the Wolf trying to stir up trouble wherever possible, but for the most part, people are good sports and want each other to do well. The moments where the entire arena wants that person to get up the Travelator, despite the winner crossing the line a full minute ago, those moments are wonderful.
There’s a natural nostalgia to this show for me, I used to watch it with my brother in the good old days, but I think it’s more than that. Take away the slightly dodgy presenting skills and the emphasis on people’s vital statistics, and you’ve got a really quite inspirational plus hugely entertaining programme. I didn’t see the more recent remake (yet), and I don’t know if it had the same tone or whether it was well-received (I understand Sky axing it came as a bit of a surprise rather than it being a show with ailing ratings). I really do think there is a space for this kind of programme though. Healthy competition, promoting fitness, and creating some well-loved Gladiator characters that you never forget.