We’d never turn the dial to catch American Gladiator, macho brain dead TV that viewed alongside gay Entertainment Tonight would doubtless induce an instant video lobotomy. But when in Hollywood the novelty of catching a show live is ever in your face so we shaped up at the down-on-its-heels LA Sports Arena to fill a seat at the taping of this new version of ‘Gladiators’ that airs tonight.
We marveled as teachers, cops, paramedics and other true heroes of our society baited with the carrot of fame and some chump change were held to ridicule. Squeezed into silly mascot superhero costumes they wrestled on a giant, soft pyramid and after one show we had enough. But our bid to bail was thwarted by a show of force. Seems we had entered Thunderdome, there was no leaving and so endured the taping of five entire shows. And that’s how we cought some segments during taping that have a snowballs chance in hell of airing but would make great reality TV.
An Asian competitor lost out to Justice -a big brother with a mohawk- dropping from an array of playground rings hung over a pool, he told a post competition interviewer “his arm reach is awesome. It was like a giant monkey coming at me.”
A gladiator wannabe with a prosthetic leg was beaten, the victor bellowed “he put his best foot forward, but it just wasn’t enough.” When that line drew groans it earned a retake and we looked around for an eight year old but never found out who is writing this show.
And yeah, being an audience member is as phony as the rest of the show; its a paying gig! A steady thing gangbangers, failed actors, those to dull witted to hold down a security guard gig. And the American Gladiator producers never let these marginal types forget they are the lowest of the low. They’re kept for hours on end with no water, rousted out of toilets and not compensated for a lunch hour. One sad sack who relies on “audience work” for a living said he considered complaining to the NBC over his treatment that day, didn’t have the cajones. “I don’t want to be black balled from this work.”
But some did, a group representing La Raza got their payback against the modern day borscht belt Tummler- a producer whose job is to keep the audience energy up. Seems the producer, guy named Robert, peppered his exhortations to clap and promises of hats and t-shirts with one anti-Latino crack too many. After ten hours of “jo, meng, whatchoo sayink, no eenglish?” and the like a posse of shaved headed teens fought back, they modified the fan signs handed out (looking all folky home crafted but spit out by the Gladiator art department) to read “Mexican Gladiator.” They hollered Mexico number one at the camera, and Robert’s bid “I bet you win a t-shirt!” drew the response, “I bet you’re gay, Joto.”
We can’t wait to see the ratings. Interesting cultural note: What happened to the original gladiators? We heard one was stabbed to death in ’96.