'Gladiators' Battle On


With a bona fide demographic hit on its hands, and no new scripted material coming anytime soon, it's no surprise that NBC is ordering more episodes of "American Gladiators."

The anchors of the "Today" show broke the news to two of the show's warriors on Monday morning, prompting an elated howl from the gladiator known as Wolf. Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer were short on details, however, so we don't yet know how many more episodes NBC has picked up or when they might debut. An NBC press release issued later in the day was no help either, though it does note that the show is now casting for season two.

What we do know is that "American Gladiators," a revival of the 1990s syndicated series, has drawn some pretty strong ratings in its brief time on the air. The Jan. 6 premiere scored a 5.9 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic that advertisers love -- the best performance by any series premiere this season (at least until Sunday, when "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," aided by a big NFL lead-in, scored a 7.6 for FOX). About 12 million people watched.

"'American Gladiators' has delivered everything we were hoping for and has come out of the gate as a top contender," says Craig Plestis, head of alternative programming at NBC. "We couldn't be more pleased with the audience reaction."

The show's ratings slipped a little in its time-period premiere on Monday, Jan. 7, but it still drew a solid 4.8 in the 18-49 demo and 10.9 million viewers opposite college football's BCS championship game on FOX.

"American Gladiators" is scheduled to conclude its initial run on NBC next month. The top male and female competitors will win $100,000 each and have a chance to become gladiators next season.

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