[Retro TV] Bring on the Nitro

American Gladiators combs Vegas for stars as it resurrects the competition show

John Katsilometes

What I remember about American Gladiators was that Nitro just destroyed people on the Joust, and that Mike Adamle provided play-by-play coverage with the same sense of urgency he used when calling the Orange Bowl.

The competition series featuring bulked-up male and female “Gladiators” who chased, fired Nerf rockets at and otherwise beat up average citizens, is making a network-television comeback on NBC (the series originally ran in syndication from 1989-96). Taping is scheduled for mid-November in Los Angeles; no airdates have been set.

A casting call to seek a new wave of Gladiators and a large contingent of contestants was held Sunday morning at the William J. Haynes Gym at the Doolittle Community Center on J Street. The timing was to coincide with the Mr./Ms. Olympia competition at the Orleans, which was held the night before (and where Gladiators flyers were distributed). Dozens of would-be Gladiators were put through a series of physical tests, followed by a probing exit interview. Hopefuls were required to perform as many pull-ups as possible in 30 seconds, a crisscross-step drill, 10 squat-thrusts and a scamper between pylons set 15 feet apart, capped by a 40-yard dash. Those who make the cut will be called back by the network for another round of video interviews.

Sunday’s exit interviews, conducted by NBC exec Chad Haywood, consisted of such questions as, “What would you do with the $100,000 first prize?” “Did you watch the original show?” and “What was your favorite event?” Also auditioning to appear was a very muscular Lauren Powers, whose agent cast the original Gladiators. “It will be a more extreme version of the original show,” says Powers.

As Haywood says, “It’s going to be an indoor-outdoor show, in the reality genre. It won’t be just a pure competition show. We’re looking for people who are not only physically fit, but who you can root for.”

One such combatant is Alonzo McCarther, who operates a security company and is an aspiring actor. McCarther plans to move here and be a performer—either as a Gladiator or contestant—on the new show.

“I had a good time. I tumbled once, but that’s okay,” he says. “Y’all didn’t see me tumble, did ya?” We did. But we also saw McCarther pop up and finish the drill, the type of mini-drama on which competition shows are built.

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