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American Gladiators is back: Spandex, trash talk and a lake of fire!

I have joked that I used to spend all day on the couch, but that was an exaggeration. I actually split the time between my couch and my computer chair and I occasionally got up to go the fridge. But Sunday I literally did lay on the couch all day next to Mr. Food Poisoning and a 4 gallon blue bucket and you know what? Sitting in one place all day makes you really sore. My body ached more at the end of the day than it ever has after weight-lifting. Of course, that might have been related to me slipping on black ice outside the laundry room on Saturday because I didn’t know I needed to wear Yaktrax to wash my panties. I spent all Sunday crammed up on a loveseat slightly too small for my full length, watching Kiki’s Delivery Service twice because if I got up to change the DVD, my brain would start sending the message “Barf! Barf!” to my stomach. The only redeeming element of the day came at 9:00pm on NBC.

That’s right, y’all. American Gladiators is back.

American Gladiators

I’ve been looking forward to the excessive use of spandex on this show since September. For those of you unfamiliar with syndicated television shows broadcast on the USA network in the 90’s, American Gladiators was a show that featured two male and two female competitors who would face off against the gladiators in several trials of strength, agility and balance. The remake is cheesy, good fun and it’s co-hosted by Laila Ali, a veteran of my other favorite, cheesy show featuring spandex, Dancing with the Stars.

While the gladiators have impressive physiques, it’s the competitors who are amazing. First, there was, Venus Ramos, a 5’4″ rehab physician and reigning Miss Fitness America who was called in as an alternate for Jesse Foster who hurt her knee after the first event and then had to go back to her job as a toilet paper salesmen. Venus inherited Jesse’s score, so she started out 4 points down, matched up against 5’10” Koya Webb. I did not have Venus envy. Yet somehow she was able to make up the difference and come in 2 points ahead before the final obstacle course – The Eliminator – named such because it will make you shit your pants. Contestants have to swim under a lake of fire. A lake of fire, people!

Lake of fire

This course is so exhausting that every contest who managed to get to the end of the Eliminator was practically hyperventilating and could barely stand for the post-race interview.

The agony of victory

Koya was ahead for most of the course, but kept slipping and falling on the Travelator (yeah, they’re just making up words now). Venus rallied and passed Koya, winning the event and this round of competition! It was amazing. I’d completely written the tiny, doctor off, but she pulled it off. Venus is officially my hero of the week.

My runner up for hero of the week is Bonnie Blanco, a retired marine who rocked the Hang Tough event in which contestants have to swing cross a pool of water on rings hanging from the ceiling. Oh, and they have to avoid a crazy gladiator like Wolf who hasn’t showered for a month and howls for the audience before each round. I was the girl who would grab onto the first rung of the monkey bars and dangle for three seconds before dropping to the ground and twisting my ankle. I admire anyone who can just cross this course. Bonnie got about halfway across when Fury wrapper her legs around her in a death grip and flipped down into the “suicide squeeze.”

Bonnie in the grips of the suicide squeeze!

But Bonnie was not deterred! She clung onto that ring, for about 20 seconds while a 148-pound gladiator clung to her waist and tried pulling her down. Fury had to flip back up and fight with Bonnie – who tossed her off into the water below! Bonnie didn’t manage to get all the way across before the time ran out, but the only thing stronger than her tenacity is her upper body strength.

While I really enjoyed seeing athletic women rocking it on prime time television, I am concerned about the contestants’ safety. There were a lot of injuries. Jesse hurt her knee during the first round of Power Ball, a gladiator hurt his arm during Hang Tough, and Bonnie whacked her head on a metal pole during The Eliminator and was bleeding from the forehead for the rest of the event. It seems like a lot to go through for only a $100,000 prize. C’mon, NBC! They’re swimming under a lake of fire! That’s worth at least a million bucks.

There are only eight episodes in this season, three of them airing this week, but I’ll be tuning in to hear the contestants’ inspirational stories and to admire Crush’s lace-up, jersey corset and to watch Hellga, who actually admits to weighing over 200 pounds and can totally kick your ass if you have a problem with that.

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eva • January 8, 2008 at 8:20 am

I’m with you about the injuries PQ! I haven’t seen it since I was a kid. When I took a peek last night I was expecting WWF style of the Gladiators “kinda trying” to stop the contestant. But no, they were not being easy on them. Pretty entertaining!


Chris • January 8, 2008 at 8:45 am

Travelator = moving sidewalk in the UK.

I’m not ashamed to admit I was a huge fan of this show the first time around, and I love that it’s back on the air. Plus, it got great ratings on Sunday, so it may stick around. Who doesn’t love watching the Hulkster?

The new Eliminator is hellish, if only for the fact that the hand bike comes after the cargo net now. The hand bike used to be the second obstacle on the old Eliminator course, after the reverse treadmill and later a Versaclimber, so you could actually do it without losing all the feeling in your arms.


Melsky • January 8, 2008 at 8:53 am

So are you going to compete in this? I think it would be great for sales of your book.

PQ – Ha! i wouldn’t even make it over the 8 foot wall at the beginning of The Eliminator. I think there was one woman on last night who had lost 50 lbs. Ironically, I couldn’t watch because I was writing this entry.


psychsarah • January 8, 2008 at 8:55 am

I was absurdly excited to watch this show. My brother and I used to love it when it was on before. It’s cool to see strong tough chicks kicking butt (I really like Helga!), and I get a huge kick out of the corny names of the Gladiators.


Lora Ramirez • January 8, 2008 at 9:51 am

The Japanese love these competitions!



Rebekah • January 8, 2008 at 12:47 pm

Hi, PQ! This is my first comment but I’ve lurked around enough to read all your archives. My favorite line from American Gladiators on Sunday was when the commentators realized Bonnie the marine had hurt herself. “She’s showing all the signs of a bloody forehead,” one of them said. Um…isn’t there only one sign of a bloody forehead??

Great job on your progress! Now let’s get you in some metallic SPANDEX!


Marianne • January 8, 2008 at 12:54 pm

PQ – you’re right, one of the women last night had lost 50lbs.

I watched last night and kept repeating “OMG OMG OMG” the whole show. I had forgotten how awesomely terrifying the show is!

I was surprised there weren’t MORE injuries, though. Yikes!


Boazig • January 8, 2008 at 2:49 pm

OMG Kiki’s Delivery Service Reference! : D


Cathleen • January 8, 2008 at 2:56 pm

I HEART American Gladiators — I can’t believe I missed it!


Happy • January 8, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Hey, so maybe there is some benefit to the writer’s strike after all.

Time to go set up the Tivo…


Meg • January 8, 2008 at 4:29 pm

GINA CARANO! I was so surprised to see her up there as “Crush”, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Gina is my HERO, and my Hub has a loudly-admitted crush on her. We watched the whole thing, Sunday and then last night too. It is terrible in such an awesome way and has GINA CARANO!!

Also: that gymnast lady last night was SO AWESOME. I’m in awe.

PQ – I have no idea who Gina Carno is, but Crush is one of my fave Gladiators.


airlie • January 9, 2008 at 4:19 am

I wonder if it will make it down under again like last season???


KBR • January 9, 2008 at 6:07 am

I had food poisoning when I was on holiday in Kenya a few years ago. I was sick as a dog for 24 hrs, and slightly queasy for the next 48, but I was 10 lb lighter when I got home and was able to get into a pair of jeans that were impossible to do up before I left. Just think of the poundage you will lose. There’s always a silver lining to every barf bucket… I mean cloud.


Nancy • January 9, 2008 at 7:03 am

I remember watching Gladiators when I was a kid. If my mom was home from work, I don’t think we watched it, but was our guilty pleasure with Dad! We also watched cheesy shows such as G.L.O.W (Georgeous ladies of wrestling), obviously not my choice!


Michelle • January 10, 2008 at 5:14 pm

I just watched it all online. I remember how much fun it was to watch as a kid!

However, you could create a drinking game with how often Hulk says “brother” or “sister.”


PQ – I was thinking the same thing! I started to wonder if Hulk Hogan’s father was a philanderer and all the contestents were his half-siblings.


K • January 10, 2008 at 7:10 pm

I believe the UK version is coming back, too.

I have many memories of pretending not to be watching it. I hope they bring back the Scottish referee who used to shout “Contenders RRRREDDAY! Gladiators RRREDDAY!” before the start of each contest. (Though he looked like an older guy back in the 90s, so maybe he’s retired.)


Paula • January 12, 2008 at 8:40 am

I really hope they bring the British version back of this too because I was obsessed with it – I always thought it would be so cool to be a gladiator – and keep me so fit. They should make gyms based on the gladiator set cos it would be so much fun and such a good workout at the same time!!!


Bonnie Blanco • January 15, 2008 at 11:46 pm

Thank you for your support!! Great blog


Bonnie Blanco • January 15, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Thank you for your support!! Great blog


kentuckienne • January 16, 2008 at 11:12 am

Heh. Someone on my crew team actually knows Hellga, and has apparently helped her with some promotional work. I had no idea who she was, but now? Now I’m kind of impressed that he knows a 200+lb superwoman.


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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