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Giving American Gladiators a Smackdown

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So, it seems as though the writers will be heading back to work soon.  There is not yet a complete list of which shows will resume production for the spring, will shows will just opt to return in the fall, and which shows will never be heard from again.  Partial lists have been compiled, but until the writers vote to return to work it's all relatively speculative anyway.  Therefore, let's ignore all of that for now and focus on what matters, namely, American Gladiators.

You think I jest, but I do not.  We're talking about American Gladiators whether you like it or not (admit it, you like it, you just don't want anyone to know).  I like it too, but I have some reservations.  The 90 minute editions NBC has been airing for the semi-finals add in one more event, which I think is better for the show, but the longer edition also sports an extra 15 or 20 minutes of commercials.  No joke.  I started watching it on my TiVo about 10 minutes late last night, had caught up before we were at the 30 minute mark, and paused and restarted the show several more times before all was said and done.  It certainly felt like at least half the show was commercials.

To be clear, I'm not saying half the show was commercials, just that it felt like it.  And whether it was or it wasn't, if it felt like it there's a problem.  Somehow the producers have to figure out a way to restructure the breaks so that the perceived commercial time decreases.  Cynics out there would argue that they've already done as much, and what felt like half the show being commercials was probably closer to two-thirds, but I doubt that.

Gladiators has this horrific, momentum killing tactic of going to a commercial break just as the contestant is about to start an event.  I know that the contestant doesn't actually have to wait for the show to return to start the event (it is all pre-recorded), but the momentum for the audience is still disrupted.  But, these 90 minute shows apparently even go to commercial before the first event takes place.  Last night, after a little recap of what the male contestants did in their preliminary rounds, the show went to commercial.  It was six minutes in before the first event started.  That's an awful long time when you consider that fact that each contestant is only doing five events plus the Eliminator. 

How about I just end today's ranting and raving with this:  it's just too much filler, and if the producers only add one more event for this Sunday's two hour finale I'm going to be hugely disappointed.  Figure that each event takes no more than five or six minutes.  So, adding one more event and another half-hour to the show this Sunday would mean that there would be an extra 25 minutes (or thereabouts) of commercial and filler.  Laila Ali and Hulk Hogan, nice though they may be, are relatively stiff as hosts and the male gladiators ridiculously over-the-top every time they open their mouths.  The show just can't make the filler interesting, so how about no doing it?  I think we'd all just like to see more pummeling. 

Who knows, maybe they'll figure it out for season 2.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • http://www.goodisthenewbad.com Jeffrey

    All these reality shows that feel like they’re two hours long are over-stuffed with commercials, for two reasons.

    The biggest reason is to fill time without re-runs. ‘Gladiators’ was probably conceived orginally as an hour long show, and the network suits gave the order to inflate it to two hours pretty late in the post-production process. The whole staff then had to sweat it out and drag out the filler to make time.

    And the other reason is make-goods… NBC especially is hurting with the upfront promises to advertisers. Since the ratings promises they made to advertisers didn’t come through, they basically owe the sponsors a crapload of free airtime, hence the wall-to-wall commercials in AG.