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NBC announces plans to revive 'American Gladiators' for primetime


By Christopher Rocchio, 08/23/2007 

NBC has announced plans to broadcast new episodes of American Gladiators as a midseason primetime series, reinventing the reality show that first aired in syndication in the early 1990s.

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"This memorable series was once a worldwide phenomenon, and given its built-in appeal, we feel it's time to re-introduce it to a new generation and take it to a heightened level of excitement for fans of all ages," said Craig Plestis, NBC Entertainment's executive vice president of reality programming.  "The 'gladiator' brand is unlike anything on television today, and is event programming at its biggest and best."

Original gladiators such as Turbo, Nitro, Zap and Diamond will be replaced by a new group of eight professionals -- consisting of four men and four women -- when NBC re-launches the show in primetime.  Casting for male and female amateur athletes to compete against the gladiators is currently underway, as well as the search for the gladiators themselves and hosts. 

In addition, classic American Gladiators' challenges including The Joust, The Wall, Hang Tough, and of course, the Eliminator, will all be upgraded and featured in the reinvented version of the show, along with a mixture of new competitions designed to test physical strength and endurance.

Plestis says that while the show's format will largely be the same, he's hoping to give viewers more background on the amateur challengers before they compete against the gladiators.

"We've been circling around this property for a long time.  It's truly what's not in the TV landscape right now.  While everyone's zigging, I'm attracted to doing a zag," Plestis told Daily Variety.  "We're not going to completely reinvent the wheel here.  But we're making it better, faster and stronger."

American Gladiators' return represents the first co-production between MGM Television and Reveille, which was founded in 2002 by current NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman, who had previously teased the show's potential return at July's Television Critics Association summer press tour.  MGM will handle international sales for the revamped series as well as assist Reveille in setting up locally-produced versions outside of the States. 

MGM produced the original American Gladiators series, which aired on syndication in the U.S. from 1989 to 1996.

"American Gladiators is a successful MGM franchise that is ready for a whole new generation of TV viewers," said Jim Packer, co-president of MGM Worldwide Television. "The timing to bring the franchise back is perfect and NBC is the ideal home. We are also excited about partnering with Reveille, which marks the first time we have teamed together on a co-production."

Reveille's Mark Koops and Howard Owens will serve as executive producers for American Gladiators, along with David Hurwitz and the show's creator Johnny Ferraro.

"The opportunity to work with MGM and NBC to reinvent one of the first great reality formats - especially one that fits in with our brand of fun, family, event programming - is a dream come true," said Koops.  "We are so psyched we are ready to take on the gladiators ourselves!"

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