How Does the New Gladiators Compare to the 90s Original?

Shinier, every bit as noisy, but Wolf-less… how does the new Gladiators measure up?

The cast of BBC One's Gladiators 2024
Photo: Hungry Bear

In the UK in the 1990s, bodybuilding was a freak pursuit – the domain of weirdos who painted themselves with Ronseal and stretched tiny Lycra hammocks across acres of skin the texture of an Arbroath Smokie in an attempt to resemble Marvel’s The Thing. Nobody knew what a deltoid was. Or a protein window. Fit people were the ones who played a weekly game of five-a-side before the pub. Fake tan smelt of biscuits, and even Sporty Spice didn’t have abs.

When Gladiators first arrived on TV then, its stars were curios. We only saw people like them once a year, pulling a truck on The World’s Strongest Man or being gawped at by Clive James on Television. These demigods with 19 inch biceps and thighs the size of dustbins didn’t walk among us. (They didn’t really walk at all, but moved by sort of tilting from one direction to the other like a ship buffeted by a tide.)

Now, it’s all change. Ordinary people “lift”. Protein shakes are sold in supermarkets, and everybody’s working on their quads. There’s never been a better time, you could argue, for Gladiators to come back because never has the Gladiators aesthetic, popularised by superhero movies and spread on Instagram selfies, been more widespread. When Muff Murfin’s theme song asked the immortal question “Are YOU a Gladeyyyaderrr?”, now more than ever is the answer likely to be ‘yeah, actually, it’s one of my side hustles. Do you want to buy a pouch of AG-1?’.

So, in that changing cultural context, how does the revived BBC show measure up to the 1990s original?


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