It’s a Saturday evening and you’re sitting cross-legged on the floor enjoying a ham and pineapple oven pizza and a cold glass of store-brand cola. You feel warm and refreshed from taking a bath and you’re engrossed in watching Gladiators on TV. The show still has its captivating host Ulrika Jonsson, the energetic Scottish referee, and the impressive athletes in their unitards, like Wolf. Except, wait, it’s not the 90s anymore. It’s 2024 and Gladiators is back (airing on BBC One at 5:50pm), still as entertaining as ever. This time, Bradley Walsh is the charismatic host and Mark Clattenburg is the referee, with Viper and other contestants showing off their intricately tattooed biceps. Time may have passed and the pizza may be cold, but Gladiators remains a constant source of enjoyment. Some things in the world never change.
Despite the switch from ITV to BBC, the latest reboot of Gladiators has been a huge success. It strikes the perfect balance of modern updates and nostalgic elements. The athletes have classic Gladiator names like Athena, Sabre, Apollo, and Bionic, and enter the arena in 90s-style tracksuits amidst foam fingers and flashy effects. The iconic Travelator is back, along with fan-favorite games like Duel and Hang Tough, as well as some new surprises. Football commentator Guy Mowbray provides commentary, making the whole experience even more exciting. The contenders are full of personality and showcase their impressive athletic abilities as they take on challenging obstacles. It’s clear that Britain has produced a generation of enthusiastic gym-goers who are more than capable of conquering a hill that seems to be fighting against them. The overall atmosphere is reminiscent of a time when Freddo bars cost only 10p, bleaching one’s hair like Gazza was a rebellious act, and the rivalry between Blur and Oasis was at its peak. It’s a thrilling blast from the past.
Our team of Gladiators are quite the characters. Giant has an incredible strength that can be compared to someone who is taking performance-enhancing drugs instead of breastmilk. Electro gives off a strong “Müller advert” vibe. Nitro seems to be the most popular person on the planet, especially among boys’ group chats. Your parents will certainly have a big argument when your mom discovers what your dad was searching for on the iPad about Comet. Steel seems like he had to choose between being on this show or getting eliminated in the third week of The Apprentice, and luckily he chose to compete with his pugil stick. If Fury was born in a different era, she would fit right into a girlband from the Pop Idol era. Legend’s future is uncertain; he could either become a beloved British TV star with a long career or have his private messages exposed by a tabloid and have to reinvent himself as a golf coach. Dynamite was born in 2003. Apollo may request to meet with you in a conference room for a quick chat, but there’s nothing to worry about and no need for a union representative. I won’t say much about Diamond because she looks like she could easily rip off a car door and hit me with it. Primary schools all over the country are being reminded to stop emulating Viper and attempting to kick each other in the head. But there’s more: Athena (who constantly steals Local Legend badges on Strava), Phantom (someone may end up in jail for sending a graphic tweet about him), Sabre (from Scotland), Fire (who might one day write a best-selling children’s book about the power of sports). Bionic gives off a strong 90s vibe, making him my personal favorite. All of the Gladiators are charming and kind (except for Viper, but that’s just his character), and they are gracious whether they win or lose. They offer encouraging words to the contestants, such as “I hope you make it to the quarter-finals!” and there’s even a wholesome Locker Room Cam where they discuss the challenges of each round. But overall, the show follows the same format as it did in 1992, complete with its iconic theme song.
One potential flaw of Gladiators is its hosting team. As a British person, I have a fondness for Bradley Walsh on The Chase. However, his son Barney, who also works on Gladiators, lacks his father’s charm and charisma. This takes away from the show’s previous appeal as a thrilling and subtly seductive program. It seems unlikely that Barney would be willing to engage in a passionate affair with Sabre, which is a missed opportunity for the show. Bringing in AJ Odudu for the second season could elevate Gladiators to become the best show in the world. So, let’s get ready by turning on the oven and chilling some cola because Gladiators is back.