Gladiators: Ulrika Jonsson suspects ‘woke rubbish’ is to blame for big change in reboot

Gladiators icon Ulrika Jonsson has condemned one particular aspect of the BBC reboot, suspecting it of being “woke rubbish”.

The legendary competition series will return to screens on Saturday (13 January) with a host of new super athletes facing off against brave contenders.

BBC announced that it was reviving the sports entertainment show last year. The series originally aired in the UK on ITV from 1992 to 2000, and was presented by Johnsson.

Hosting duties this time around will fall to father-son duo Bradley and Barney Walsh. You can find a full list of the 2024 Gladiators, including Apollo, Bionic, Electro, and Sabre, here.

During an appearance on Lorraine on Friday (12 January), Jonsson, 56, complained about the reboot – taking issue with the absence of cheerleaders.

Host Christine Lampard asked Jonsson: “There’s one thing lacking this time around, which I know you’re not happy about.”

Jonsson said that the new series, which she saw a preview of, brought “tears to my eyes” as the music and “general feel” made her reminisce about her time on the show.

She said, however, that there was one crucial thing missing: cheerleaders.

John Fashanu and Ulrika Jonsson, were the hosts of ‘Gladiators’ during its run on ITV (PA) (PA Archive)
John Fashanu and Ulrika Jonsson, were the hosts of ‘Gladiators’ during its run on ITV (PA) (PA Archive)

“No cheerleaders!” she explained. “I just don’t understand it. I don’t understand if it’s some kind of wokery. The cheerleaders brought another level and some depth to it.”

In addition to the Gladiators, the original series also featured a group of cheerleaders known as the “G-Force”.

Jonsson, who is not involved in the new version, continued: “They’re gorgeous and talented girls! We had such lovely time with them.”

“I don’t understand,” she said. “They were so great, it’s just a shame… I don’t know what the reasons are.”

 (Nick Eagle / BBC / Hungry Bear)
(Nick Eagle / BBC / Hungry Bear)

In an interview with The Sun published soon after, Johnsson reiterated her issue with the series.

“Where are the cheerleaders? I think the public will be as perplexed as me about their disappearance. I don’t know if this is some kind of woke rubbish but it’s disappointing,” she said.

The Independent has approached BBC’s representatives for comment.

Ulrika Jonsson (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Ulrika Jonsson (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

In an interview with The Telegraph, Jonsson said that the BBC bosses had done a “good job” on the reboot overall, but said “there are so many things [from the original series] that you just wouldn’t do now”.

She said that there had been “a lot of bed-hopping” on the programme, explaining: “The producers put them all on one floor in the hotel, which made it easy.”

“It was a completely different time,” Jonsson continued, recalling that she felt “uncomfortable” wearing “really slinky clothes”.

“I remember standing there with my boobs up here thinking, this is horrible,” she said. “Nowadays you’d put your foot down straight away, but it wasn’t the climate.”

Gladiators premiers on BBC and iPlayer on Saturday 13 January at 5.50pm.