Kid 'Gladiators' return

MGM carries syndie series' sword

After the recent successful launch of the new "American Gladiators" on NBC, MGM's domestic TV distribution is digging into the archives to bring out the mid-'90s kids series "Gladiators 2000," hosted by Ryan Seacrest.

"Gladiators 2000," which was designed to be a companion to the original "American Gladiators," features teens competing in games that challenge their physical abilities as well as their knowledge of nutrition, fitness and the human body.

Also Monday, MGM said it had acquired U.S. syndication rights to Tribune Entertainment's home improvement series "Ron Hazelton's HouseCalls." MGM is looking to seal two-year renewals for "HouseCalls" at NATPE, where the company also will be selling "Gladiators 2000."

MGM is offering 39 half-hour episodes of "Gladiators 2000" at NATPE for a fall 2008 launch in syndication.

"The series offers stations a unique alternative to weekend (i.e., educational) programming, and with the current success of the new NBC version of 'Gladiators,' it's a great fit," MGM Worldwide Television co-president Jim Packer said.

Added "Gladiators" executive producer and original series creator Johnny Ferraro: "It took almost eight years to get the first 'American Gladiators' on television but only a few months to get 'Gladiators 2000' on the air because of the tremendous popularity of the original series. Bringing the show back for today's hard-to-reach audience is a wonderful initiative."

The news about "Gladiators 2000" follows the studio's recent announcement of a multimedia campaign for "American Gladiators," which MGM co-produces with Reveille, that features a cross-city tour and the development of a cartoon series as well as a broadband site, AmericanGladiators.com, to be launched Wednesday at NATPE.

"HouseCalls," which was cleared in more than 70% of the U.S. this past season, had been distributed by Tribune. MGM is taking over after Tribune's decision last month to shut down its distribution arm.

" 'Ron Hazelton's HouseCalls' is an established series with a loyal following on TV and online," Packer said. "In taking over the distribution from our partners at Tribune, we already have a head start in getting the series renewed given the success they've had in clearing the show and selling the barter time."

MGM is offering 22 new half-hour episodes for next season and the following seasons, along with the nine previous cycles.
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