Muscles & Mayhem: An Unauthorized Story of American Gladiators (2023) s01e01 Episode Script

Pilot Madness

[trumpet fanfare playing]
[commentator 1]
From Universal Studios Hollywood,
this is American Gladiators!
[audience cheering]
[Michael] I remember the producer says,
"Hey, I'mma make you guys stars."
[thrilling music playing]
And he looked at me in particular,
he said, "We'll make you a star."
"You guys are gonna make a lot of money."
["Bust a Move" by Young MC playing]
[newscaster 1] American Gladiators,
that TV show where people supposedly
get to test their strength
against a bunch of Hulks.
[Jim] Nothing was staged. Ever.
[Danny] It was awesome. It was real.
[audience cheering]
[Danny] There was nothing else
like it on TV.
[Michael] It was barbaric.
We learned quickly we're gonna need
more than Band-Aids here, folks.
[Danny] Look, we had groupies, we had sex,
we had drugs, and we were coming to a town
to kick the shit out of you.
[Steve] Next thing you know,
American Gladiators,
we're the number one
syndicated show in the world.
And that's when you go,
"Holy shit! We're kinda famous."
These guys' egos
just started getting bigger and bigger.
Something that was delightful
started to feel resentful.
[Eytan] I walked into their dressing room
and saw that there were syringes
and needles lying around.
Watching the show completely go
into downward spiral was pretty terrible.
What I'm gonna do with my life now
that it's all taken away? Where do I go?
[Danny] There wasn't a chance in hell
that this was gonna continue to air.
["The Power" by SNAP! playing]
I've got the power ♪
Power, power ♪
I've got the power ♪
Power, power ♪
I've got the power ♪
Power, power ♪
I've got the power ♪
Power, power ♪
["You've Got Another Thing Comin'"
by Judas Priest playing]
One life, I'm gonna live it up ♪
[camera assistant] Gemini, take one.
Am I looking at you?
- [director] You're looking at me.
- Okay.
I'm looking at you.
[director] So
- Everybody's talking bullshit.
- [laughing] All right.
You ready? Do I? Okay.
- Whoo!
- [director] Whoo!
My goodness!
I'll relax into it.
As long as I'm not snorting too much
or blinking too much.
Okay. [sniffs] Anybody have cocaine?
Let's try it. [laughing]
Okay, so how do you want me to start this?
[upbeat rock music playing]
[crowd cheering]
The time of the American Gladiators,
it was the '90s.
Clinton was in the White House.
I did not have sexual relations
with that woman.
Internet? No.
[automated voice] You've got mail.
Cell phones? No.
This was, like, late '80s, early '90s.
And the winner is MC Hammer!
[Danny] MC Hammer ruled the airwaves.
It was definitely
in that era of superheroes.
I have the power!
Athletes were becoming
mega box office superstars.
[Sha-Ri] At the time,
bodybuilding was huge.
Beyond huge. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Sylvester Stallone. All of a sudden,
bodybuilders became our action heroes.
Pro-wrestlers, Hulk Hogan, all these guys,
they became stars right away too.
There was no reality TV.
Baywatch was popular.
Game shows they had
were Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy.
It was a different time,
and in the middle of everything going on,
everyone in the world tuned in
to watch American Gladiators.
[commentator 2] Contenders, best of luck,
because you have to face
our American Gladiators. Let's get it on!
[intriguing synth music playing]
I'm Michael Horton. I played Gemini.
I'm the original American Gladiator.
[commentator 3] Gemini using
that pugil stick like a sledgehammer.
[commentator 4] Craig just doesn't have
enough firepower, but Gemini does.
The big backhand, and Craig goes down.
[audience cheering]
[Michael] I grew up in Yakima, Washington.
Small town.
I ended up coming down here,
to California, to play football.
[football commentator] Mike Horton,
Phil McKinnely, Gene Bleymaier,
that's the biggest offensive front
you'll see in college football.
[Michael] And from there,
drafted in the NFL.
[football commentator]
Mike Horton in there.
Last game of the season,
I felt a sharp pain.
Go in, the doc says, "Well, you got
a little bit of a tear in your Achilles."
That was the end of my career.
But then my agent, he calls me up
and says, "They have this new show
they're thinking about doing a pilot for."
"They want a big Black guy,
so go over there."
They just wanted football players.
[thrilling synth music playing]
[Michael] A guy comes in the trailer.
[Michael] And said,
"You guys are gonna be stars."
He had an Elvis Presley outfit on.
The hair, the jewels,
the whole big coif. Everything.
It was like,
"Dude, what's the matter with you?"
He said, "I'm Johnny,
the guy who came up with this concept."
And we're looking at each other
like, "Who is this guy?"
[Mark] Johnny Ferraro owns a gym
in Youngstown, Ohio,
and put on these kind of competitions
for the bodybuilders and athletes.
He was an Elvis impersonator at one time.
Johnny puts on my desk
a cardboard advertisement,
and on the top, it said
"American Gladiators," and I thought,
"What an amazing title."
But there was no show.
Johnny Ferraro brought me in
to develop the show.
The original concept was pretty much
man versus man, bare-knuckle boxing,
kind of like Bloodsport.
[Branscombe] There was no concept.
There wasn't.
I went to high school with Bob Jaffe,
and he said,
"Hey, man, I got this script.
It's called American Gladiators."
"Would you be a stunt coordinator on it?"
I said, "Yeah, sure."
There was an Elvis impersonator guy there.
I don't know if he was,
but he looked like Elvis Presley.
He was in that meeting, and I was
wondering, "What does that guy do?"
It is a hard hat Olympics.
It's the hard hats of America.
It's the blue-collar sport.
Johnny Ferraro is playing it up, right?
"This is my show. I invented this thing."
"I got a great idea.
How do I put it together?" We had no idea.
[Mark] We went into the marketplace.
Everybody passed.
Finally, we went
to the very last syndicator,
The Samuel Goldwyn Company.
[Dick] I was president
of Samuel Goldwyn Television.
It was a boutique operation
that was very eager
to get into television.
We were a film company.
We were known for launching the careers.
Julia Roberts, we did a movie with her
called Mystic Pizza.
So, for us to be involved with
American Gladiators was, like, bizarre.
Goldwyn I don't think realized
what they were getting into.
We were doing a concept pilot,
which we didn't know
was a concept pilot at the time.
We thought, "This is the show."
And I had a simple question.
I said, "If this is a game show,
are we casting these guys?
Where are we gonna find these people?"
[intriguing music playing]
[Jaffe] We held this tryout at a park,
where we brought in
about 20, 30 stunt people.
[Branscombe] Why go with stunt people?
They had to have an ability to really
give you some action and not get hurt.
One of the hardest parts was
to get people to be part of the cast.
You had to explain to these guys and gals,
it's paying this amount, right?
Which was [blows raspberry]
There was no money.
But if you had a guy
who wanted to be there
to kind of make a name for himself Boom!
[upbeat synth music playing]
I'm looking at this,
and I'm saying, "Whoa."
Guys out there shouldn't even been out.
There was guys out there
with big old knee braces on
and overweight, you know.
They wanted to test your athletic ability,
have you runnin' around cones,
kinda like a football-related workout.
It was kind of like summer camp gone crazy
because there were very few, if any,
safety protocols put into place.
Something you couldn't
get away with today, for sure.
And a few of them stood out.
Marisa Pare, Lace.
And Michael Horton, Gemini.
[Michael] First of all, it was the look,
so half of them got cut from the look.
They didn't even get to work out.
And eventually we narrowed it down
to the original six Gladiators.
I'm Lisa McCullough, and I played Zap
on the pilot for American Gladiators.
I actually had a blossoming stunt career.
I stunt-doubled Cindy Crawford.
[Cindy Crawford screams]
[Lisa] I doubled for Sharon Stone.
I didn't do the leg cross,
but I can duplicate it.
When I showed up on the pilot,
it wasn't some glamorous thing.
[epic fanfare playing]
[narrator 1, dramatically] Centuries ago,
Romans pitted man against man
in ultimate tests
of strength and endurance.
They were the Gladiators.
Now, more than 20 centuries later,
they're back!
American Gladiators.
[Jaffe] For location,
we found a covered equestrian center
that actually had seating on the side,
so we thought,
"This is perfect for an audience."
"It's got a dirt floor.
Nobody's gonna get too badly hurt."
The conditions that we did the pilot under
was ridiculous.
Why does it smell like horse crap here?
Well, the horses were in here yesterday.
Horse manure everywhere.
You step out the trailer, boom!
You've got the body. Strong legs.
How are those legs feeling?
[Jaffe] We got the Gladiators
into modified baseball protection,
modified motorcycle gear.
And when I say "modified,"
I mean we put a coat of paint on it
or wrapped some colorful tape around it.
- What do you think?
- I love it!
Not really much protection,
um, but they looked cool.
The outfit, it was so strange.
It was foam.
They said, "That'll look good on camera.
Everything's gonna work."
[host] Each week, two men
and two women are selected.
They compete in three incredibly
unique games against the Gladiators.
We were sort of flying
by the seat of our pants.
Evander, tell me,
what do you think about this event?
Well, I'm afraid it's actually a game
that involves a lot of strategy.
Kinda like chess.
Chess. Right.
All those games in the pilot, man,
I-I created those with Bill Garnet.
I sort of specialized
in made-for-television sports.
They had no idea what the show was.
They had a title, basically,
and that was it.
Bob Jaffe, Branscombe, and I
were tasked with coming up
with what American Gladiators
was going to be.
[Jaffe] My wife drew an artboard
with various little pictures of games
that they could be playing.
It looked pretty cool for what it was.
- Let's go.
- [whistle blows]
And I would sit there for days, hours,
coming up with games in his backyard,
trying out the games.
I remember one night
watching David Letterman,
and he did a little stunt on the show
where he had this Velcro outfit.
You'll never guess where this is pulling.
[audience laughing]
And he had to run
and hit this little trampoline,
and he'd stick to a wall.
[drumroll playing]
[cymbals crash]
[audience cheering]
So I came in the next day, and I said,
"Branscombe, we gotta have an event
where we can stick 'em to a wall."
And we just played with ideas.
"What if we get this gigantic ball,
and they have to try to push each other
off this platform?"
"What if we have somebody
jumping up on a trampoline,
but the Gladiator can pull this rope
and pull them off the ground?"
[Dick] You know, we had the events.
Johnny felt they were good.
And I was pretty optimistic about
what we were going to end up with.
But as we started shooting the pilot,
I was a little surprised
that we had several different problems
we had to solve.
This is the event we have here tonight.
I've never seen anything like it.
Well, let's get this thing started.
During filming,
Johnny Ferraro comes backstage.
And he was introduced
as the guy who came up with the idea.
[cartoon Johnny] Yeah!
[Branscombe] And he's jumping
on a freakin' trampoline.
He's got kids and friends and family.
They're all sitting on the springs.
And I go, "Hey! Get the effing off
that god dang trampoline!"
And he goes, "Oh, this is my show!
I'm jumping on this trampoline."
I go, "You break this trampoline,
I don't have an event. Get off."
And then he went to go play
with the tennis ball launcher,
and all of a sudden there were
silver balls flying all over.
He started screwing over with everything.
As the story goes, which is true,
I got a little frustrated, a little angry,
walked off for a couple of hours
and just had to regroup.
We're back, and, Tim, this is
my favorite event. The Velcro Joust.
We had a person dressed up in Velcro,
which was pretty cool.
But the game didn't work at all.
Did the events go exactly as I would have
liked them to go? Absolutely not.
[host] His arm's out.
Uh-oh, there he goes.
And I had thought that if the Gladiators
would push them
against these Velcro strips,
they would stick.
[hosts speaking indistinctly]
They didn't stick. [laughs]
It was ridiculous. You throw a person up
against the wall and see if they stick.
[host] This round one is not quite over.
So we sort of had to adapt at the time,
and say, "Okay, if they hit the wall,
those are the points."
[Jaffe] What we quickly found out
was that,
without any support for people's legs,
all you had were two people
hanging in space.
[host chuckles]
Look at that. He's attached to him.
I I guess I didn't understand
the laws of physics
that a body that big wouldn't stick.
Here's what you need to do.
Pick up as many of these objects
as you can in two minutes.
Easy enough, except that's gonna make it
a little more difficult. Let's go for it.
[Jaffe] The trampoline thing,
if I'm gonna be honest with you here,
we never really figured it out.
It just kind of happened.
[host] I wanna get one of these
contraptions in my house, actually.
The stuff on the trampoline? Wonderful.
Because it was a great game.
And it was visually exciting.
[host] How do you think she's gonna keep
Marci from the trampoline?
Just like that, she's gonna
Boy! It's Marci in the air.
It was awful.
[Jaffe] The entire idea of pieces of foam
bouncing off of the trampoline,
I honestly think we probably just had some
extra foam around and threw it out there
and said,
"Okay, she's gonna try to grab it."
[host] It's kicking up various things,
but it doesn't look like
[Jaffe] It's kinda dangerous.
I threw my whole body into it,
and it would fling her
into the trampoline.
[host] This is tough for Marci,
but down she goes again.
And I felt terrible,
but I had to keep going.
The woman who was the contestant
took some pretty hard hits
against the side of the trampoline.
She didn't come back to the show.
[host] She got pounded into the side
of the trampoline. Those protective pads
It was kind of one misfire after another.
[Julie] They shot the pilot to Gladiators
the week that I started at Goldwyn.
So I I was not involved
in the pilot. [laughing]
It was not my fault. [laughing]
It was a big thing in the company
that they were shooting this pilot,
so I was invited to come.
And I sat there in shock.
Nubian slaves.
Really big-muscled people
throwing other people around,
and it was outrageous, and
I it was kinda hard to see it
working as a show.
[host] That's right.
If he doesn't get him off
It was supposed to end at 11 p.m.,
and we walked out the following morning
somewhere around seven.
After 18 hours, I'm sitting in the chair,
going, "Oh my goodness. Oh my God."
[Jaffe] Sam got in his limo
along with the rest of his gang.
His eyes popped out
as he looked around and thought,
"What the heck did I just buy?"
It was embarrassing as all hell.
I think all of us were disappointed
because the production, we felt,
should have been much better.
Sam said, "We have a problem." [laughing]
Number one, the Sam Goldwyn pedigree
was legendary,
and Sam Goldwyn Jr. started the company.
I mean, he was the son of the famous mogul
from the '30s, '40s, and '50s.
And I'm saying to myself, "This is great."
"This is my first project,
and this is the Titanic."
This is Graham Doggett.
See you next week on American Gladiators.
It was pretty obvious that we were not
going to go out into the marketplace
with what we had shot.
[audience cheering]
[Jaffe] We knew we had
to get him something,
so we did
what Goldwyn didn't want us to do.
We created a shortened version,
but it was more,
"Here's the best we can do."
We believed that we could,
with the right amount of finessing,
put together a great reel.
[host] And they go back again.
Oh, he wants more. He's taking the money.
[Jaffe] We created graphics
to try to razzle-dazzle everybody.
[Dick] Put some sizzle to it, had a lot of
quick shots, a lot of action.
And you could really understand
what the jump was
to an entire hour-long series.
In the end, the Goldwyn Company
begrudgingly said,
"Okay, we'll take this sizzle reel,
this shortened pilot,
and we'll try to sell it."
Trash TV, tabloid reality, talk shows,
and game shows. All hot stuff at NATPE.
[upbeat music playing]
You do it right ♪
Uh-huh, all right ♪
You do it right ♪
[Jaffe] The NATPE convention,
it is the one place to sell your product.
It brings all of the independent stations
across the country together
for three days of crazy parties.
Probably some payoffs.
[Dan Rather]
Endless wheeling and dealing for dollars
is unfolding over
a 300,000-square-foot playing field.
It was big. It was it was huge.
And I see Oprah for the first time.
She wasn't as big as she is now.
Okay, let's do it.
[Michael] So I said,
"Man, something's going on here."
[Mark] Gladiators was one of the few
one-hour weekly shows taken to NATPE.
That same year, another distributor
decided to bring back roller derby,
and they had what was called
The Rock and Rollergames.
And it was roller derby, and there was
a pit with an alligator in the middle,
and everybody thought
that was gonna be the show.
American Gladiators didn't have a buzz
like Rock and Rollergames.
Come on and give me some ♪
Rock, rock, rock and rollergames ♪
Rock, rock, rock ♪
[Julie] Nobody really thought
Gladiators had much of a chance.
They couldn't figure out what it was.
But people knew what roller derby was.
It had a little more of a WWF
pro-wrestling kind of feel to it.
[interviewee] Rollergames.
A little roller derby,
a little of Rollerball,
a little of Playboy, who said that?
We gonna win the Pulitzer Prize
for literature for this show?
Oh, probably not.
And so people just kind of figured that
that had a better chance at succeeding.
And I always would get a little pissed off
when I would read those articles. [laughs]
People were not falling all over
themselves to come into our booth.
[Dick] We were struggling.
We decided that we want to make a splash.
[upbeat music playing]
We made the decision to be over the top
'cause we realized
that was our only chance.
We worked out a situation
where we could put a small boxing ring
in the Convention Center.
[Michael] They had us all set up
where they wanted us
to animate some of the stuff,
some of the games
at that point to try to sell the concept.
During the convention,
we created a parade of Gladiators
and marched them
right through the convention,
through almost every booth.
[Dick] We hired somebody
to essentially beat a drum,
and we [laughing]
we had them beating the drum
all the way through to our stand.
And as they are going along,
beating the drum,
and the Gladiators are walking along,
waving, and all of a sudden
there's a following behind them.
All the NATPE officials were coming.
They're saying, "You can't do that.
You have to leave."
[crowd cheering]
[Jaffe] The crowd was tremendous,
and there were photographers there.
There was the LA Times,
there was Newsweek, and it was big news.
We had people following us into the booth,
and then we did our presentations.
And Dick Askin,
who is a great salesman, got it sold.
So, it's a go.
That rarely happens at a convention.
The excitement was through the roof.
- [upbeat music playing]
- [crowd cheering]
[Dick] We ordered 13 episodes.
[Julie] It's like the old joke.
We sold this thing,
now we've got to make it.
[intriguing music playing]
[Dick] We knew that
we had to change the production
and bring in new cast members
because the pilot was so
[Michael] They fired all the Gladiators
who did the pilot except Lace and I,
and they were gonna interview some more
and wanted me to come help them do that.
They were going for a look.
Well, Lace, we're the same size,
sorta the same look,
and she got much stronger.
Let me just put it that way.
She got much stronger. I couldn't do that.
Bodybuilders have a heroic look to them.
That's why some of the original Gladiators
didn't make it to the next round.
Because they were looking for
something that is huge.
The legitimacy of the competition was key.
Without it, then it was just
a pseudo-wrestling show with poor actors.
So we knew we needed good athletes.
We kind of stood back as producers
and looked for the things
that we knew that would help the show.
Sex appeal, great personalities,
athleticism, a fun nature.
And then we decide that your name should
kinda be reflective of your personality.
[Jaffe] These were cartoon
superhero-type people.
We went for names
that we felt were reflective of that.
And really, it was kind of
Make a list on a board
and cross off
the ones that we didn't like.
We knew that we wanted
a feminine Gladiator.
We needed to have a tomboy Gladiator.
We needed to have somebody
who had super high energy.
And one of the producers, I think,
in development came up with Gemini.
[narrator 2] You're looking at Gemini,
a split personality.
Calm one minute, violent the next.
I sit down in a room
with Sam Goldwyn, Dick Askin,
a few other people and those guys.
They asked me a couple of questions.
[Dick] "Who wants to be Gemini?"
And Mike raised his hand.
It was probably the most difficult thing
in the world
because Gemini was basically
a schizophrenic personality.
So, one minute he's mad,
next minute he's kind.
People think I have a lot of moods.
Well, there's only one mood
that I'm concerned about.
That's competitive mood.
What I did in the audition was,
I turned real mean on them,
and I kind of scared them.
And then, at the end, I just kind of
changed it up and just said,
"You guys wanna go have quiche?"
It was a fair decision, but Mike,
I'm mad now, and I'm ready to go!
And he did the best he could.
And after about
three or four shows, we said,
"Let's just drop this schizophrenic bit.
I mean, it's not playing."
And he said,
"Thank God, I feel like a fool."
[Michael] Most of the guys they showed me
were, like, a bunch of bodybuilders,
bunch of 'em are stiff guys.
They kept telling me,
"Hey, what do we do here?"
"What's your opinion on this guy?"
I just told them the people
that looked okay to me.
It just kind of elevated me to
that leadership position.
And I remember seeing Nitro.
He had a temper,
and he looked like he took it personal
when he went up against bigger guys.
Very determined and very skillful.
[narrator 2] This is Nitro.
Cocky, explosive, and always aggressive.
[rock music playing]
[Danny] My favorite part about being Nitro
was the idea that I could go out,
and I could enact violence on people
in a structured setting
and get paid for it.
I don't know, I'm just making shit up.
It was really the chicks. [laughs]
[upbeat synth music playing]
I remember one of the last auditions I had
before American Gladiators
was with this photographer,
and it was on what you call a go-see,
where you go meet a photographer,
he takes pictures of you,
and he shows them to different advertisers
and people for work.
And he studies me for a second.
He looks at me and he's like,
"You know what?"
He says, "I'm gonna do you a big favor."
He says,
"I'm not going to take your picture."
Like, "What are you talking about?"
And he said,
"Well, you have to understand."
"They want Caucasian, they want Asian,
they want African-American,
and they want Latino."
Goes, "I don't know what you are."
And I said, "Well, I'm half Asian,
you know, I'm half Caucasian."
And he says, "Yeah, they don't want that.
You're never going to work in this town."
"So, I'm doing you a favor.
You should just go home now."
And I remember I almost packed it in.
[poignant music playing]
At the time, I remember I had just, uh,
gotten my son's mother pregnant.
And I was trying to figure out
what I was going to do with my life.
And then one day,
when I was at the Seven-Eleven,
I opened this magazine
called the Drama-Logue,
and they had this ad
for this rinky-dink TV show idea.
[funky synth music playing]
I remember going to that tryout,
and they had brought these kids in.
College students.
They drew this chalk outline,
15 yards long,
of a football field on the concrete.
They stood this kid across from you,
who must've been 150 pounds soaking wet,
and they said, "Okay,
take this football, run through that guy."
And I'm 235 pounds. You know,
I've got steam coming out of my ears,
and when they blew that whistle,
and that guy took off towards me
Bam! Picked the guy up.
Slammed him on the concrete.
- He goes unconscious.
- [birds tweeting]
And in my mind, I'm like, "Oh shit,
they're gonna kick me out of the place."
Right then, I hear the producer,
"Hey, you! You."
I go, "Oh shit. Here it comes.
I'm gonna get fired."
And he whispers in my ear.
He says, "Hey, kid, you got the job."
I said, "Yes!"
["Funkytown" by Lipps, Inc. playing]
Nitro was kinda like Maverick in Top Gun,
you know, kick your ass, cocky.
You wanted to be his buddy,
but also I tried to be pretty.
I know it was hard with this face,
but I tried to be pretty,
so that the girls would be
interested as well.
Gotta make a move
To a town that's right for me ♪
From the girls' standpoint, better have
someone that guys like to look at.
[narrator 2] This is Lace.
Feminine, sexy, but always a lady.
And Lace,
when we did our audition with her,
we said,
"What's your favorite contact sport?"
And she said, "Shopping."
Please welcome Lace.
- [audience cheering]
- [Danny] Oof, Lace.
Yeah, she was a looker.
And she could scrap
and she could throw down,
but I always wondered
about her durability with her build.
[narrator 2] And here is Sunny,
the all-American woman.
[Danny] Then there was Sunny,
who was this, like, 6'2" Olympic cyclist,
who really didn't say much,
but she seemed like
she would be formidable.
I told them, on the girl thing,
"You need to have good-looking girls
that can do physical things."
[narrator 2] Here is Zap.
Strong. Silent. The Terminator.
[funky music playing]
[Raye] A lot of people say
I've got a horseshoe up my ass
because I'm very lucky.
There was a casting call for a movie
called Skin Deep with John Ritter.
Here's the thing.
I had no idea who these people were.
I never wanted to be an actress.
Didn't think about it.
I was so into the bodybuilding scene,
but they want somebody
who's real muscular,
and back then I was about 180 pounds.
I think that's why I got the part.
I didn't know what the hell I was doing.
[Raye, as Lonnie]
I've worked five years to build this body.
And for one night, it's all yours.
[exciting music playing]
How do you feel about that?
Like Mrs. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
[Raye, present day]
The creator of American Gladiators
saw the trailer from Skin Deep.
He was a huge fan.
He had my poster on his garage,
and I didn't even have to audition
for American Gladiators.
[narrator 2] And this is Malibu,
the cool, laid-back surfer.
Right at home on the beach.
Deron couldn't have been more perfect.
He had this beautiful mane of blond hair
that would make Farrah Fawcett jealous.
You never gonna defeat 220 pounds
of twisted steel and sex appeal.
Malibu was all about flash.
He had that surfer thing going on.
He took his character a little beyond
what I think he should have,
we'll put it that way.
[narrator 2]
These are your American Gladiators.
[Dick] We've gradually whittled it down
to six Gladiators, and they were terrific.
At that point, the project became real.
[Mark] As they started
on production of the series,
I heard that Rock and Rollergames
was cancelled,
and people were really starting to talk,
word of mouth was good on the Gladiators.
Here this evening,
what some people think and others fear
may be the future of television.
Crash TV, a concoction of sports and sex,
is a label critics have stuck on
syndicated shows.
Who are we trying to kid here?
It's what sells.
[newscaster 2] Pro-wrestling, watch out,
the American Gladiators are on the way.
This new game promises the thrill
of Mortal Kombat.
It's a fight to the finish
for money and glory.
There's no reason for this to exist
outside of some TV producer
deciding, "This could get audiences
in the short-term."
"This could make me a lot of money."
What I think we're seeing
is the lunatic fringe
joining the mainstream.
[Dick] We started production
at Universal Studios,
which was very expensive.
[Danny] I cannot believe
that I'm actually going to work
on to the lot of Universal Studios.
I said, "I've made it. This is my time."
I quit my job. I stopped bodybuilding.
I couldn't believe it.
I was almost pissing my pants.
That's right. As Gladiators,
we kick their ass,
and then we go to lunch.
[man] Going right up against the
[Michael, present day]
But there was a big problem.
[ominous music playing]
I remember, it's my first day
on the American Gladiators set,
and I get on the soundstage.
Right away, I'm like,
"Oh shit, I'm in trouble here."
[whistle blows]
[Michael] The games weren't
set up very well.
[host] Whoa! Well, I don't know.
[Michael] Very dangerous.
Producers, they had no idea what happens
when you have a physical athletic event.
No clue.
You can only imagine what happened.
[Dick] It was a reality check for us
because we were concerned
about the athletes
and the liability issues as well.
This was a big financial risk,
especially for a company like Goldwyn.
I knew that people were gonna get hurt.
I knew they were gonna get injured,
and a lot of people did.
Goldwyn wasn't happy.
The following day,
walking into your office,
I mean, it was like a morgue.
We could have pulled the plug
and just cancelled the show.
[Danny] There was no way
that this show was gonna make it.
- [contestants grunting]
- [hosts exclaiming]
[host] Nitro is still down.
I think he's temporarily unconscious.
I thought for sure
that my Hollywood dream was over.
[upbeat music playing]
[fire crackling]
[upbeat music playing]
[crowd cheering]
Next Episode