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American Gladiators - Season 1: The Battle Begins Review

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Video:   7/10
Audio:   7/10
Extras:   3/10

Bring it on!
by Gord Lacey (All reviews)

    Here it is, for the first time ever on DVD...the thrilling first season of the hit competition series where two male and two female contestants pit their strength, speed and athletic skill against a group of highly trained professional athletes known as The American Gladiators.

    Premiering in 1989, the weekly program began with Joe Theismann and Mike Adamle as the hosts - both shown here in a jam-packed recap episode. The Battle Begins then commences with the second half of Season One, just as Adamle was joined by Todd Christensen and the show's arena expanded into a large soundstage on the back lot at Universal Studios. Season One features contenders such as actor Billy Wirth (The Lost Boys), fitness expert Cheryl Ann Silich and Olympic hopeful Wendy Brown.

    The competition features a total of six grueling events for each contestant: Assault, Breakthrough And Conquer, Human Cannonball, Joust, Powerball and The Eliminator. The second half of Season One saw the exciting addition of the spectacle known as The Wall, in which contenders had two minutes to scale a rock climbers wall with a Gladiator in hot pursuit.

    The original show was an instant hit and continued for seven seasons, and in 2008 it spawned a new version of the no-holds-barred television phenomenon that was an overnight ratings success.
American Gladiators was one of my favorite shows growing up as a kid. I even got excited when NBC brought the show back, though that didn't last very long. I got a big, goofy grin on my face when I heard Shout! Factory would bring the first season on DVD.

This isn't the entire first season of the show, but rather a trimmed-down season, with only the later episodes being released on DVD. We pick up the show in the second half of the season:

Disc 1 (3:44:14)
First Half Highlight Show (44:57)
Preliminaries Round 1 (44:52)
Preliminaries Round 2 (44:47)
Preliminaries Round 3 (44:47)
Preliminaries Round 4 (44:51)

Disc 2 (3:41:01)
Preliminaries Round 5 (44:20)
Quarterfinals Round 1 (44:14)
Quarterfinals Round 2 (44:08)
Quarterfinals Round 3 (44:01)
Quarterfinals Round 4 (44:18)

Disc 3 (2:56:18)
The Semifinals Round 1 (44:05)
The Semifinals Round 2 (44:12)
The Finals (44:05)
The Grand Championship (43:56)


I expected American Gladiators, a show shot in the 80s on video tape, so look at lot worse than it does. In fact, I'd say the show looks pretty darn good, with the only faults in the picture being the fault of the original technology used. I didn't notice any major problems in the picture, just some video dropouts here and there (little black lines that last a frame or so). Each disc contains a "play all," but not a chapter after the opening of the episode, which makes sense since the opening is integrated into the show itself.


The English mono audio track on the release sounds good, and I really can't complain about the quality. The announcers come through clearly, and there weren't any audio issues. There aren't any subtitles or captions for the episodes.

Extras - How we rate extras

Commentary Tracks
Dan "Nitro" Clark, Jim "Laser" Starr and Raye "Zap" Hollitt provide commentary on:
First Half Highlight Show
Preliminaries Round 1
Quarterfinals Round 4
The Finals
The commentary tracks are excellent, providing a lot of behind-the-scenes information on the show. Very cool, and some of the best commentary tracks I've heard. They're also uncensored, so keep the kids away.

Interview with Billy Wirth (9:48)
Billy Wirth, the actor (Lost Boys), director and producer, was a contestant on American Gladiators. Unfortunately all his episodes were in the first half of the season.


It's too bad the first half of the season couldn't be included, but then again it would have been twice the price, and probably and wouldn't sell as well. You're not really missing out much, except you won't really have seen two of the contestants in the "Grand Championship," and you pretty much miss all of Billy Wirth's appearance on the show, except for the material shown in the "First Half Highlight Show."

The commentary tracks are much better than I was expecting. I figured these three former Gladiators would have little to say, so I was pleasantly surprised when I started listening to the tracks. Not only did they have a lot to say, they revealed a lot of behind-the-scenes information about the show, how they got to be on the show, and what they thought of some of the past contestants and other Gladiators. They were all very interesting to listen to, and I highly recommend you check it out after finishing with the episodes.

I'm hopeful that this sells well enough for Shout! Factory to release more sets down the line, but that'll depend on you, loyal Gladiator fans.

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