ESPN has announced details on the next instalment in the Peabody and Emmy award-winning 30 for 30 series, called “The American Gladiators Documentary,” which is a two-part film directed by Ben Berman (“The Amazing Johnathan Documentary”).
The film takes an unconventional approach to the epic tale of the famed reality-competition show. What begins as a traditional sports documentary soon gives way to bigger themes of greed, divergent narratives, and ultimately questions how history itself is written. The film is executive produced by VICE Studios.
From 1989 to 1996, American Gladiators was one of the most popular syndicated programs in television, a competition show that predated the reality TV era but used many of the same techniques to attract viewers. Every week, “amateur” contestants would go up against a cast of “professional” gladiators in a range of physical competitions, setting up David versus Goliath matchups that were popular with big television audiences but also earned considerable criticism for being “crash TV”. The show’s cast and crew look back on it all, with their memories complicated by regret over what it did to many of the gladiators’ lives. And as the behind-the-scenes story of the series is told, from the beginning of the film, the central, most compelling character of the story is clear: Johnny Ferraro, the creator of American Gladiators, a former Elvis impersonator from Erie, PA who came to Hollywood with a dream of putting the show on screen and ended up with a singular success.
“We’re very excited to finally get this story out into the world, and you can trust that it’ll take you to some weird places,” said Berman. “Come for the 90’s nostalgia, but stay for the Elvis impersonators, the burps, the mental torment, the murder plots, aliens, and of course the undeniable atrocity of America’s dark history. And sports. It’s got some sports too.”
The film features original interviews with Johnny Ferraro, Deron McBee (‘Malibu’), Michael Horton (‘Gemini’), Lynn ‘Red’ Williams (‘Sabre’), the late William Billy Smith (‘Thunder’) and Salina Bartunek (‘Elektra’). The documentary is executive produced by ESPN Films and VICE Studios and produced by Ben Berman, Kirk Johnson, Russell Wayne Groves, Danny Gabai and Andrew Freston.
It will debut on ESPN on Tuesday, 30th May 2023, at 8:30p.m. ET and Wednesday, May 31st 2023, at 9p.m. ET. It will be made available on ESPN+ immediately after its premiere, along with the rest of the 30 for 30 library. A large number of ESPN 30 For 30 documentaries are also available to watch on Disney+ around the world, though its unknown if this documentary will also be released on Disney+.
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Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.