The American Gladiators Documentary

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Kirk Johnson spent years working to birth the baby that is 30 for 30: The American Gladiators Documentary, and you can catch the two-part series in all its glory on ESPN+. Johnson, Lake Highlands High School 2003 grad, served as the film’s co-director.

Film critic Chris Vognar, writing for the Rolling Stone, calls the show “witty, mischievous [and] inventive,” and says Gladiators is “a worthy entry in ESPN’s enduring and consistently intelligent doc series.” The Daily Beast says most of all, the show is funny, “spotlighting some of American Gladiators’ unique personalities.”

American Gladiators aired weekly from 1989 to 1996, ranking for a time as the most popular syndicated series on television. As “amateur” contestants faced off against professional “gladiators” in crazy games and challenges, viewers chose up sides and reveled in the drama.

“Come for the 90’s nostalgia, but stay for the Elvis impersonators, the burps, the mental torment, the murder plots, the aliens, and of course the undeniable atrocity of America’s dark history,” says director Ben Berman. “And sports. It’s got some sports too.”