Gladiators: Original star Hawk criticises lack of female presenter on new series

A former contestant on the original series ofGladiators has said that he was “disappointed” by the choice of presenters for the remake of the popular show.

The BBC show returned to screens on Saturday night (13 January) with a new arena and set of 16 “superhumans” who will take part in the action.

Though the show has had a huge revamp since it first aired in 1992, the premise remains similar. Contestants (two men, two women) compete over a series of randomised trials, battling the various Gladiators to gain an advantage in the final head-to-head race, the Eliminator.

Along the way, the contestants will face the Gladiators, who fling themselves at the contestants in an attempt to stop them from scoring points.

Alex Georgijev, who played Hawk on the series 30 years ago, has said that he believes that the show’s original formula of having a female presenter is an “important part” of the programme that the remake has missed.

When the original show premiered in the UK on ITV in 1992, it was presented by Ulrika Jonsson alongside John Fashanu and later Jeremy Guscott. Now, actor Bradley Walsh and his son Barney are at the presenting helm of the reboot.

“I was a bit disappointed in the presenters, I have to admit,” said Georgijev in a BBC interview.

“Bradley Walsh wouldn’t have been my first choice, and his son was there. I think that a female presenter was missing – I really think that was an important part of the Gladiators.”

The cast of ‘Gladiators’ 2024 (Nick Eagle / BBC / Hungry Bear)
The cast of ‘Gladiators’ 2024 (Nick Eagle / BBC / Hungry Bear)

However, Georgijev did say he was pleased to see that the show has been revived and its received such a warm welcome.

When he appeared on the original programme, he said that it was “difficult to get crowds in”, compared to the large following the show has today.

"There were empty seats everywhere because nobody knew what it was,” he said. “Now, apparently tickets are really sought after.”

Bradley Walsh presenting ‘Gladiators’ (BBC / © Hungry Bear Media Ltd)
Bradley Walsh presenting ‘Gladiators’ (BBC / © Hungry Bear Media Ltd)

In his three-star review of the new series of Gladiators, The Independent’s TV critic Nick Hilton writes that the show is where “the public embarrassment of Takeshi’s Castle meets the pantomime quality of WWE wrestling”.

“If the original series was dominated by ex-squaddies and county athletes, this new version is the domain of the personal trainer (PT). As a PT marketing exercise, nothing could be more effective: scuttling up climbing walls or rope nets, getting thumped in various formations, swinging across hoops and bars,” he adds.

“There is a simple, unalloyed joy in seeing people getting smashed in the face with a giant Q-tip.”

Gladiators airs on Saturdays at 5.50pm on BBC One.