I don't watch too much TV. I only say this because if a picky snob like myself endorses a TV show, you know it has to be awesome.
So let me just say right now that the new American Gladiators which debuted last night is a shining example of just what is possible with the medium of television.
If you're not familiar with American Gladiators, it's a contest between 2 reasonably athletic but otherwise average schmoes against gigantic roid monsters who could snap a loser like me in half with a menacing glance. They're so badass they don't even have normal, god-fearing Christian names. They've got names like Stealth, Titan, Militia, Fury, and Hellga. These are names that let you know they mean business.
The contestants play various games against these gladiators. Each game is worth points and the objective is to build up a lead against your opponent which translates into a head start in the final one on one showdown between the contestants in the Eliminator. The Eliminator is what an obstacle course would be if it was designed by Lucifer and the Marquis de Sade on a bar napkin over a couple of cocktails. People limp across the finish line of this thing looking like they've just run 4 marathons in a row while being beaten with a shoe.
Let me just summarize the high points of the debut episode last night:
1) Five minutes into the program, one of the female contestants blows out her knee getting tackled into a wall. She further destroys it attempting to hobble back to the home base and twisting it awkwardly. She ends up on crutches and is out of the competition.
2) About seven more minutes after that, Gladiator Militia blows out his arm swinging from rings, attempting to catch a contestant also swinging on rings.
3) Over the course of the next half hour, at least 4 piledrivers are executed on the contestants across 2 different events. We get to see the replays from the contestant's perspectives thanks to cameras mounted in their helmets (you didn't think the helmets were actually there to prevent head trauma did you?).
4) A guy has such a huge lead in the Eliminator that it appears over until he reaches the final obstacle: a treadmill that is on a very steep angle up. You have to run up this thing against the flow of the treadmill to get to the finish line. Completely exhausted by the rest of the Eliminator, the dude falls down at least 6 or 7 times trying to make it up that last ramp, giving the other contestant time to catch up and win the match. Watching the dude try to get up the ramp was what I imagine it would be like to watch Sisyphus try to push that boulder up the mountain: you feel bad for the guy, but not bad enough to stop laughing.
5) A woman cracks open her forehead on one of the first obstacles in the Eliminator by leaping into a steel beam. Blood running down her face, once she passes that obstacle she then has to get on the "barrel roll". On this thing you are standing at a great height looking at a barrel on a ramp lying horizontally. You have to grip the thing and then a helpful fellow pushes you down the ramp, spinning you at a rapid rate while you struggle to hold on. Confused and bleeding, the woman does not hold on very long and falls, landing almost head first. She tries to get up but falls down again from dizziness and disorientation. Undaunted she eventually finishes behind her opponent with her face covered in blood. Her daughter screams in the audience when she goes to hug her.
The show is on again tonight and I absolutely can't wait.