Pop Culture

‘Gladiators’ isn’t scripted — for the most part

Wondering about how a certain reality show pulled something off? Have a question about a certain contestant?

Whether it's “Survivor,” “American Idol,” “The Apprentice,” “Real World” or another show, send in your questions. Andy Dehnart, msnbc.com's Television Editor and creator of Reality Blurred, will try to answer them.

Q: Is “American Gladiators” scripted? From the introductions right down to the post-match interviews, everything seems fake. I don’t remember it being like that the first time around.  —Anonymous

A: It depends upon what you mean by “scripted.” As a reality show and competition, the show’s outcome is not predetermined or scripted in any way. But the interview segments basically are. (The show’s crew even includes a “script coordinator,” according to its IMDB entry.)

That the host’s questions are scripted is painfully obvious, and that’s the worst part about the show for me. Hosts Laila Ali and Hulk Hogan were terrible and awkward at reciting their lines, and dragged the show down every time they appeared on screen with their fake spontaneity.

I asked NBC about this, and via the show’s representative, the producers confirmed that they “give the hosts some bullet points of information to put in their own words to set the table, so to speak, and provide some questions to ask the contestants in interviews.” However, the contestants’ and Gladiators’ responses are not scripted, they said. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

And the competitions are also not scripted in any way. The producers said, “This is a straight-up sporting competition where when the referee blows the whistle, it’s game on.”

Hopefully, for season two, which debuts May 12, they’ll let the hosts speak for themselves.

Q: Some shows like “Last Comic Standing” and “The Next Food Network Star” offer the winner a prize of a development deal for their own show. So whatever happened to the past winners of “Last Comic” or Amy Finley of “Next Food Network Star”? Was a show of their own ever developed?John F., Houston

A: It depends upon the show and contestant, but usually, the answer is yes. For example, “Last Comic Standing 4” winner Josh Blue told me a while ago that instead of a stand-up special, he licensed his existing DVD to Bravo. He was happy with that decision. “It’s good for me, man. I don’t have to burn a bunch of material,” he said.

As to your specific question, “Next Food Network Star” Amy Finley has a show on the network called “The Gourmet Next Door,” a title that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who watched her on the competition, as that was her angle. Six episodes were produced and aired Sundays at 1 p.m, but no additional episodes are currently scheduled.

The show’s first-season winners, Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh, still have a show on Food Network, “Party Line With the Hearty Boys,” which debuted in 2006 as “Party Line with Dan and Steve.” And season two winner, Guy Fieri, actually has two shows on the network: “Guy’s Big Bite,” which airs Saturdays at 1:30 p.m., and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” which airs Mondays at 10 p.m.

Other cable series have delivered on their promises to give their winners their own shows. HGTV’s “Design Star” winner David Bromstad has a show called “Color Splash” that airs Saturdays at 9 p.m., and season two winner Kim Myles debuted her show, “Myles of Style,” last Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

Q: “Survivor” has had back-to-back weeks in which two people have gone home instead of just one. Since the second departure each week was unplanned, what does this do to the production schedule? It seems like they’d have two final weeks with nothing to do!Dorothy N., Portland, Maine

Kathy quitting on last Wednesday’s episode of “Survivor” did indeed mean that two people left the show that week (Tracy was also voted out). The week before, Jonathan Penner was forced to leave due to an injury and Chet was voted out.

However, the show started with 20 contestants this season, four more than in past seasons. That means it’s still on track to have four contestants remaining as the finale begins on Sunday, May 11. Interestingly, despite the two eliminations, “Survivor: China” had just 16 contestants and 13 episodes, while “Survivor: Micronesia” will actually have 14 episodes.

By the way, there’s no episode of “Survivor: Micronesia” this week, as basketball is taking its place. That helps push more of its season into May sweeps.

is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.

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