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Welcome to Throwback Thursday. Every week, we’ll be bringing you a blast from the past to put a smile on your face. From old school TV, to ad campaigns from days gone by, the history of fashion is littered with potential comedy gold.
In this week’s Throwback Thursday, it’s time to relive the televisual fun that was Gladiators. Anyone that grew up through the 1990s can surely remember the vividly camp Saturday night extravaganza that specialised in very muscular men in very tight leotards.
Perhaps the most homoerotic programme ever produced, I remember the hysteria that Gladiators brought out in people. If you’ve never seen it, are too young to remember, or were scared of The Wolf and have suppressed all the memories, the premise was simple. Each week four contenders, two male and two female, would come to the arena (in Birmingham, the spiritual home of violence) and take on the Gladiators in a series of games and challenges. It’s The Hunger Games meets Total Wipeout with the aesthetics of a Eurovision semi final.
The best part was the gladiators themselves. The girls were like Baywatch vixens on steroids and the every guy looked like the lovechild of a B rate male model and Hulk Hogan. The muscle tone was something else: I think a requirement to get in as a gladiator was that you could bench press a Renault Clio with relative ease. The costumes they wore were brilliant too. Gladiators proved that boldly coloured skin-tight lycra didn’t quite die with the end of the 80s, and has inspired the look of over pumped gym assholes across the world ever since.
But my favourite part was the names. With guys called Wolf, Saracen and Cobra and girls called Jet, Zodiac and Vogue, Gladiators really played into that really 90s trend of ‘unusual’ names. I’d like to think that it was partly the reason for those kids called Phoenix and Hunter that I went to school with. My favourite of all was Nightshade, who was fierce as hell. Although in hindsight there was definitely something racist about calling the only black woman ‘Nightshade’…
Overall, Gladiators was one of the best TV shows of the 90s. It is a vivid childhood memory, and probably the reason why I’m deeply attracted any man with biceps bigger than his head. There are a few episodes on YouTube, which are best enjoyed on a quiet Friday night in with friends and plenty of wine.
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