Who Needs Writers? NBC Has 'American Gladiators'

Yesterday we said that NBC would need a huge hit to save it after the end of Sunday Night Football. It looks like it just got one. Sunday night’s premiere of “American Gladiator”, the cheesy remake of the cheesy 80s steroids-and-spandex shlock-fest, did boffo numbers.

NBC got 12 million people to tune in for the 2-hour premiere of “Gladiators” on Sunday night; that’s the best non-football performance NBC has enjoyed in that slot since the Emmy’s in 2006. This season NBC’s NFL broadcasts averaged 15.5 million.

As good as this is for NBC, it’s even worse for the striking writers. Not only does NBC get more breathing room as it scrounges around for non-repeat shows to air — it gets it via a show that doesn’t use unionized writers.

NBC is pacing for another fourth-place finish in the ratings and, like the other broadcast nets, its facing running out of original scripted programming in February due to the writers strike. “Gladiators,” while not a game-changer is a glimmer of hope. Even Variety’s Brian Lowry didn’t hate it, calling it “just cheeky enough to look fresh again” despite numerous “irritants.”

But NBC could used some more good news: It is about to lose the Golden Globes broadcast due to the WGA’s refusal to do a deal with Dick Clark Productions and to actors’ unwillingness to cross a line. Variety reports NBC is in last-ditch talks to convert its once highly-rated Golden Globes into a one-hour NBC News special in lieu of a live event.

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