Monday, May 12, 2008

Honking Box Review: Gladiators

You know, this whole Nineties revival thing hasn’t turned out too bad. Sure, the Spice Girls reunion could have been managed by a basset hound and turned out better, yet the concerts themselves were impossible to fault. And while we’re not exactly Take That devotees, the squeeing housewives across Britain speak for themselves.

So imagine our disappointment to see that Gladiators – back on fucking Sky One for a 21st Century overhaul – hasn’t made the transition particularly well. Clearly, this is at the ropey end of the Nineties spectrum with the return of All Saints. The floor space has been quartered, making Powerball resemble a stroll around a vase stand at The Pier; sob stories of dead relatives (a la X Factor) have found themselves an awkward new home here; Hit & Run’s gigantic silver globes have been replaced by small, baggy sacks that you’d see in the doorway of a Sue Ryder Care shop after a Bank Holiday; and a swimming pool has been shoehorned in, with similar dimensions to the sort usually reserved for bodily fluids and shame during the more drunken nights of Big Brother.

Aside from the skimpy budgets and comparatively miniscule set, the main problem with all-new Gladiators appears to be that it takes itself far too seriously. Constantly in character without a hint of personality, the Gladiators are like jobbing actors given their break as pantomime baddies, reaching new levels of cringe-inducing overacting while remaining steadfastly dead-eyed throughout.

Oblivion’s desperation to cement himself as the villain character is utterly shameless, completely tenuous and impossible to buy into given that he looks like a bouncy castle with the head of an emu, and carries all the threat of a passive-aggressive remark about Lauren’s strappy sandals in an episode of The Hills.

Elsewhere, one would imagine a Gladiator given the name of Spartan (which, in the company of Battleaxe, is most certainly one of the long straws) would have no trouble miming his moniker. Drawing his mighty sword, perhaps? Charging headlong into battle? Or even just some gormless flexing? Oh no, not Spartan. Someone’s obviously told him ‘Spartan’ means ‘RADA reject’, hence the cringe-inducing ham party he unveils each time he’s introduced, resembling something like Quentin Crisp attempting tai-chi minutes after leaving a full-body cast. However, the most jaw-dropping aspect of this came courtesy of the end credits, which inexplicably listed a choreographer as part of the show. So Spartan was TOLD to do that shit? And AGREED?!

Having seen the revamped American Gladiators while on a Sloppy Dog recreational in Florida earlier this year, it was interesting that the new series paid more of a homage to the UK take on Gladiators rather than its original US incarnation – pyrotechnics, incidental music, and a sense of fun rather than fierce competition. However, the Sky One adaptation evidently takes its lead from Ice Warriors (for those of you not familiar, a toe-curlingly diabolical Gladiators-on-ice catastrophe which lasted one season, and will forever be imprinted in our minds thanks to the ill-chosen line supposedly extolling the might and mystique of ‘warrior’ Marax The Vixen - “raised by beasts of the snow”).

And yet, there wasn’t a total freeze-out on references harking back to the original series. Kirsty Gallacher, for example, who came in costume as the 1990s, complete with iffy waistcoat and a poofy Silvikrin-sponsored bob, supposedly as some sort of tribute to original host Ulrika Jonsson. Wisely, Kirsty opted not to go the whole hog and act as in-house cum-receptacle for every male Gladiator. And contender. And crew member. And audience member.

Elsewhere, 90s Glad veteran Panther found her name recycled and bestowed upon what appears to be Dame Kelly Holmes (complete with charisma deficiency), while Hunter was seemingly cryogenically frozen, thawed out and renamed Atlas. Once again, with a grave absence of personality. We’re noticing a pattern here.

We won’t give up on it just yet (although its presence on the inaccessible Sky One might be the deciding factor) – one episode is just one episode, after all. And hey – if Inferno can manage to walk upright whilst carrying those ridiculously huge baps, then she deserves our respect if nothing else.

And yet, in spite of all the above, which cements the new series of Gladiators thus far as a putrid pile of horse-shit, we’re fully aware that the Gladiators themselves could beat the bejesus out of us without breaking the slightest hint of a sweat. So we’ll sign off here, call Oblivion a nobber while his back is turned, and quite frankly, leggit.

No comments:

Creative Commons Licence
The Sloppy Dog by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.