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Category:    Home > Reviews > Game Show > TV > Sports > American Gladiators – The Original Series: The Battle Begins (1989/Shout! Factory DVD)

American Gladiators – The Original Series: The Battle Begins (1989/Shout Factory DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Episodes: C+



In one of the most unlikely combinations of game show, Battle Of The Network Stars, Rambo and pre-reality TV, American Gladiators continued the 1980s into the 1990s with physical competition contests with all the vim and vigor of ABC’s Wide World Of Sports and the result was one of the biggest syndicated hits of its time.  Successfully revived in later years, Shout! Factory is now issuing a DVD of the earliest shows under the banner The Original Series: The Battle Begins.


The show included a crew of one-named athletes/bodybuilders like Nitro, Blaze and Zap who are out to stop the contestants from completing a variety of events or beating them in amusing one-on-one battles like “Human Cannonball” and “Jousting” among the many amusing bits the producers put together.  The infamous Joe Theismann was joined by Mike Adamle as co-hosts and the result was a unique show and guilty pleasure for more than a few viewers.


The 3-DVD set has 14 full shows and you can get the idea (if you have not seen the show) what was still possible on analog TV to have a hit with.  To its credit, the show is good-natured and has a sense of corny fun, but the professionals hired to stop the contestants can just about stop anyone who plays.  It is often that anyone who wins is allowed to, depending on the game.  If a contestant is rude and mean, watch how they get stopped cold.


The result is an interesting howler of TV entertainment that holds up a bit better than expected.  Just by being different and respecting the audience just enough, the success was justified and in that respect, it is looking much better than most of what we are getting now.


The 1.33 X 1 image can be soft because this is off-the-cuff analog taping like any other sports event, but the sources used are faithfully transferred better than many similarly produced TV shows (like bad sitcoms) so it’s not too bad.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also as clear as a slightly compressed TV recording of the time is going to be, so it is good, but don’t expect much.  Extras include an illustrated book profiling the cast, interview with contestant/actor Billy Wirth (The Lost Boys) and audio commentary tracks on select shows by Don “Nitro” Clark, Raye “Zap” Hollitt and Jim “Laser” Starr.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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