American Gladiators! Babies! RAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHH!

As both Alex and my Shelly reminded me over the past few days, the second season of the New! IMPROVED! American Gladiators has begun. Monday night was the opening episode of the season, but if you missed it, there’s another airing this Friday at 8/7 central. Or, you can watch it online at the NBC website. Which I am doing now. There’s tons of New! IMPROVED! stuff going on for the second season, but I was most impressed with the fact that Laila is having a baby. (RAAAAAAAGHHHHH! Power+Strength = Intense Baby Labor! and PAIN!)

That brings me to another point – what’s with fake advertising/spoofs and babies? Take the ‘I feel great ‘ Nutrigrain commercial:

Or the Powerthirst ad:

What makes babies funny? Is it the number of babies? Babies everywhere? 400 babies? Would AG be funnier if they could add more babies? Or is it just the ridiculousness of too many babies that gets our funny going, a ridiculousness that goes along with every aspect of American Gladiators?

AG has learned from last season’s mistakes. This time around, it’s not only about preening, machismo, and trash talk. It’s about serious stuff, serious issues that people face every day. It’s also about overcoming obstacles. No, I don’t mean the ones in the Eliminator. I mean a single mom who put herself through school (she’s allowing herself to be bludgeoned and ‘tested’ for her daughter), a man with one leg (he has a bendy metal thing instead, kinda like a hook-leg instead of a peg one) and a deaf man (Don’t worry, he’s not mute – he can still give a loud, man-beast yell). Yep, we’ve really got the cream of the crop this season. Maybe next season, they’ll make all the contestants live and train together in some tiny apartment and see what happens. The Eliminator would be replaced – instead, there’ll be one in-apartment event called ‘The Bathroom’.

Gladiators online

I just changed the title here so more people will read this one instead of the old one.

Now that the final challenge has been met, and the ultimate gladiators (for this season, anyway) have been decided, I checked out some of the other features on NBC’s website related to the show. There are good parts, and bad parts. The overall layout was a bit overwhelming to take in. I get the chrome edging, the very bright red, white, and blue colors, the highlighted stars – it’s all tough, and very American. Still, legibility is something of a concern here. Also, there’s a section dedicated to defining the events. It’s not really necessary. If I’m already interested enough in the show to go to NBC and check it out, I’m not going to need to know what the events are. If I’m still checking out some descriptions of the show and possibly reviews, I’m not going to be looking at NBC.

Still, there is quite a bit of quality material on the website. It’s pretty standard stuff, but a step in the right direction as far as making shows more viewer participation oriented. There’s games that allow all of us couch potatoes to get in on the action of competition, even if they aren’t currently terribly dramatic games. There’s stats and details about both the contestants and the gladiators. There’s video clips detailing almost every aspect of the show. There’s a series of forums, downloads, and photos that allow a little bit of viewer participation.
1. More trash talking: One of the most fundamental aspects of the game on television is talking yourself up. If the website allows us to compete against each other in online games, it should definitely also give us the opportunity to exhibit our joaning prowess.

2. Bread: Obviously, a large part of Rome’s success in her expansion across the known world had to do with satisfying the ‘citizens’ back at home. Just as Decimus Junius Juvenalis said about the interests of those same citizens, they are really only interested in ‘bread and circuses’. I’ve already stated in an earlier post how American Gladiators serves to satisfy our bloodthirstiness – they are the entertainment, the ‘circus’. Now, to fill our bellies. I recommend that NBC start doing a little USA foodstuff distribution to promote the next season. I mean really, who wouldn’t want a tasty American Gladiators Snack Pack? I know I would.

3. Viewer participation, viewer participation, viewer participation: There’s so much that could be done here in an expansive way. More games. Online viewer challenges. There should be voting online for your favorite contender, and more than just voting, there should be NCA-type brackets that can be filled out. Possibly there should be gladiator-to-gladiator online competitions that are simulated due to different skills, the outcomes of which you can guess. Simulated betting might be another option. Viewer comment should be more integrated into the overall layout of the site – if I’m going to leave a comment about Wolf, it should be accessible from his description. Also, it’s a little tedious to deal with all the different types of postings relating to a single gladiator or competitor. Viewer comments should be more browsable.

So, there’s still alot to be done, and I’m sure people who are younger and more web-savvy than me will have more to say. American Gladiators, you put up a good fight. But I wonder if, without the writer’s strike to boost your viewing numbers, you’ll be able to keep your numbers up and keep your stamina for future seasons.