Gladiators review: This shiny floor reboot is great family fun, they just need to ditch the dad-and-lad presenters
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It was hard not to be reminded of John 'Fash the Bash' Fashanu and teatime on Saturday, dominated by Blind Date, Stars in Their Eyes and Beadle's About.
And, of course, Gladiators (BBC1, Sat, 5.50pm), which made a loud, brash and colourful return to our screens this week.
It kept much of what made the original series so muscle-bulgingly popular – the shiny floor, the excitable arena crowds and the giant foam hands were all present and correct.
And, of course, the Gladiators themselves. Huge slabs of veiny beef (the men) or lithe, quicksilver powerhouses (the women), they still bore slightly silly names like Nitro, Sabre and the slightly more prosaic Giant.
They leap into the arena, pulling poses of varying degrees of silliness, before attempting to take the heads off the luckless contenders. Legend, in particular, seems to be afflicted with a dreadful skin complaint, given the number of times he rubs at his face on every appearance.
The games had a familiar look as well. There was old favourite Duel, where a Gladiator attempts to knock a contender off a pedestal with a giant cotton bud, and The Gauntlet – a run down a sort of corridor blocked by Gladiators. Basically the sort of thing that would be familiar to anyone who has attempted to ignore the arrows in IKEA.
Then there were some new games, including Collision, in which the contenders run from one side of a wobbly bridge to the other, attempting to put some balls in some nets while the Gladiators swing in from the side on trapezes.
It looked like a lot of fun, although the contenders ran a substantial risk of getting a face-full of Spandex-clad Gladiator groin.
The contenders were a hardy lot, but looked puny next to the gigantic sorts in the pink and blue outfits they looked tiny.
It didn't stop Myles, an IT engineer from Leeds, giving them some fearful stick – although it has to be said he came off second best.
The main difference between this show and the 90s version, however, were the hosts.
Where before we had the excitable Fashanu and the-then ubiquitous Ulrika Jonsson, here we had comedian Bradley Walsh and his mini-me son Barney.
You could have imagined both Fashanu and Jonsson giving the various games a good go, but 'Bradders' is getting to the age where going upstairs is a bit of a trial, and 'Barnes' looked like he'd fall over in a stiff breeze.
This shouldn't disqualify them from being hosts of Gladiators, but neither of them looked like they really wanted to be there.
Bradley did a few Christmas cracker-standard jokes, Barney dutifully laughed along, but it was dreadfully stilted and the energy noticeably dropped when they were on screen.
It's difficult to comprehend just how big a cultural phenomenon the original Gladiators was. There were action figures, decorative plates and clocks.
The Gladiators themselves became hugely famous and appeared all over the place. Wolf – the supposed villain of the whole thing – was a panto regular. Dads' favourite Jet became a TV presenter before retraining as a psychotherapist. Rhino went to Hollywood and appeared in Creed and Idris Elba's gangster flick Yardie.
And this latest incarnation shows how Saturday night entertainment seems to be evolving – or regressing, depending on your point of view.
Gladiators ended just as the TV talent show began to take off, with Popstars, Pop Idol, The X Factor, Fame Academy and a never-ending parade of knock-offs dominating Saturday nights.
But now the wheel has turned, and Saturday Night Takeaway, The Wheel, and The Masked Singer are heralding a return to the shiny floor shows of Saturday teatimes past.
Gladiators 2024 was a lot of good, clean family fun, but you feel that its chances of sticking around for the long term depends on finding the hosts who can match its energy and vitality. Or at least come up with a decent catchphrase.