[size=12pt]NBC pumps up for 'Gladiators' redo[/size]
Competition show revived for midseason
By MICHAEL SCHNEIDER, JOSEF ADALIAN
NBC is getting into the ring with "American Gladiators," which has been revived by the Peacock for midseason.
The competition skein -- which featured players with names like Nitro, Turbo and Laser in its campy, early '90s syndie incarnation -- will be updated for the 21st century with new technology and twists. MGM TV, which was behind the original hit, is producing along with Reveille.
Peacock's interest in the revival actually predates the arrival of NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios co-chairman Ben Silverman, who began developing the project while still in charge of Reveille. Net confirmed last month that "Gladiator" was a priority at the net (Daily Variety, July 16).
"We've been circling around this property for a long time now," said Craig Plestis, exec VP of alternative programming, development and specials at NBC Entertainment. "It's truly what's not in the TV landscape right now. While everyone's zigging, I'm attracted to doing a zag."
Net wouldn't confirm the episodic order, but at least six segs are believed to be in the works. NBC could opt to launch the show as a one-week strip -- similar to how it bowed "Deal or No Deal" -- or as a weekly skein.
Airing in syndication from 1989-96, "American Gladiators" focused on physically fit amateur athletes who competed against the show's regulars (action stars, stunt professionals and pro athletes) in various physical strength and endurance competitions.
The show hit it big by showcasing David vs. Goliath-style battles in events such as the Joust, the Wall, the Eliminator and Hang Tough. Coincidentally, the original "Gladiators" shot its first several seasons at Universal Studios.
Plestis said he was particularly interested in the original U.K. version of "Gladiators," which focused even more on the characters and the behind-the-scenes stories of common folk going up against the show's powerful stars. The new "Gladiators," he said, "will have the scale, scope, different characters and family drama that the U.K. version had."
"We're not going to completely reinvent the wheel here," he said. "But we're making it better, faster and stronger."