A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that that this game show is all about action. Though the contenders are competing against each other for a $100,000 prize at the end of the season, in the meantime they must go up against the gladiators in a series of grueling physical events. Many of these involve wrestling, tackling, and various types of mock combat. It can get pretty rough, and participants are sometimes injured (remind kids who watch that they shouldn't try any of these events at home). There's no swearing, but expect plenty of trash talking. And though there's no nudity, all of the gladiators wear revealing outfits designed to show off the bodies they've obviously worked very hard to develop.
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What's the story?
With names like Mayhem, Venom, Fury, and Wolf, don't expect the new crop of AMERICAN GLADIATORS to play nice. This rough-and-tumble game show, a remake of the popular series from the 1990s, pits amateur athletes against a dozen seriously well-toned gladiators in a variety of physical contests. Hosts are Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali.
Is it any good?
Though the contestants are technically competing against each other, they're rarely matched against one another in the various events, which have friendly names like "joust," "hit and run," "gauntlet," and "assault." Instead, they must face off against the gladiators in these challenges, which are heavy on the wrestling, tackling, and mock combat. The contestants are all in great shape, and some of them -- including a professional skateboarder and a New York fire fighter -- are certainly above-average specimens, but most of them are just average folks (including a toilet paper sales rep, a bartender, and an aviation engineer). They're clearly outclassed by the gladiators, whose roster includes a four-time Mr. Universe, a 6'8" former European professional basketball player, and a veteran kickboxer.
There's plenty of action, and a fair bit of trash talking between the contestants and gladiators, some of which seems to straddle the line between fun competition and real hostility. The hosts sometimes egg them on with their pre- and post-event interviews, and the studio audience amps up the aggression, cheering when the gladiators take someone down and jeering the pummeled contestants. All of the events are grueling, and several can be fun to watch, but this show certainly doesn't rate very highly on the cultural scale. Watching these people bash each other for our pleasure is basic, escapist entertainment -- a classic guilty pleasure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sportsmanship. The contestants and the gladiators often trash-talk each other, and their comments sometimes seem to have some anger behind them. This kind of thing is a common part of many games, especially physical ones, but when does it cross a line? And speaking of lines, is it OK to watch people batter each other in the name of entertainment? The ancient gladiators fought to the death to amuse Roman emperors. This show uses plenty of safety gear and has medics on hand, but the basic premise is similar. Is the show's whole concept inherently inhumane? Or is it simply another rough-but-fun spectator sport like boxing or football?