The Gauntlet was a TV show that ran from 1995-2006 and which was broadcasted weekly on Thursday nights at 11 p.m. on TBS. It was a game show that pitted two teams of two against each other in challenges that usually had to do with physical endurance. Contestants had to complete as many physical challenges as they could while being penalized for mistakes. The show was known for its grueling, high-intensity gameplay and often highlighted the competitive spirit of many American men.
The show was created and produced by Stephen J. Cannell and was part of his long-running ‘90s TV show empire that also included The A-Team and The Rookie. While the show itself never drew particularly high ratings, it did have a loyal audience and was sometimes considered to be one of TBS’s signature shows. It also spawned several popular games, including Cards Against Humanity and Werewolf. The A.V. Club put it on their list of “The Most Influential Gaming Talk Shows Of All Time”, adding: “If you haven’t watched the show, you should really give it a shot…just make sure you’re not watching when you should be doing homework.”
Gambling Was Not Always The Theme
In case you’re wondering, the word “gambling” does not appear once in the show’s official description on the TBS website. Instead, the first paragraph reads: “The Game: Two teams of two compete in a physical endurance challenge where mistakes are penalized. The objective is to complete as many tasks as possible within the time limit. There are eight different games, each representing a week of competition.”
Prior to airing, the show’s press release described it as “an exciting new game show where winning is no longer available” and said that the theme of the show would be “gambling.” However, during one of the show’s early episodes, host Rich Eisen mentioned that the show would be set in Prague and that there would be “a lot of gambling” on it. Since that point, the word “gambling” has consistently appeared in connection with the show on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), including descriptions of the episodes, the contests, and the teams that competed in them. (See screenshot below.)
In the show, the contestants were introduced to the audience as “average Joes” and “just like you, we’re just regular people who get the itch to play some poker.” One of the contestants then proceeds to reveal himself to be a professional gambler, which led to a brief discussion of the ethics of gambling before the game begins. (In case you’re wondering, the gambling profession is not explicitly mentioned in the rules or the show’s official description, although it’s certainly implied.)
The Rules Of The Game
The games themselves were fairly arbitrary, but they usually involved completing a series of tasks as quickly as possible while being penalized for mistakes. The show often emphasized physical endurance, but it was also concerned with mental stamina (e.g., In order to win, you need to keep your cool on the gallows), strategic thinking (e.g., Since it’s a competition, you have to come up with the best plan to win), and logic (e.g., One of the tasks in the first game requires the competitors to search an empty room for a hidden letter with a key attached hidden in it. If you’re wondering, the answer is “A”).
Each week’s game presented the contestants with two teams of two who were competing against each other in a battle of wits. One of the game’s hallmarks was the fact that the players changed partners halfway through the game, which made for some interesting gameplay dynamics. For instance, if a task required the competitors to solve a series of mathematical equations, switching teams halfway through the game might mean that one contestant is forced to work with someone for whom he has essentially zero intellectual capacity.
In general, the teams were balanced, which meant that each team had an equal chance of winning. However, this was not always the case since the tasks were set up in a way that seemed to favor one side more than the other. If it was determined at the end of the week that Team A had won more games than Team B, that would usually mean that Team A would play the final match with just one member and Team B would have to field both of its members for that match. The team that won the most games at the end of the season was the team that had used the fewest rules on the other teams during the season.
Who Wants To Be On The Show?
If you’re the kind of person who likes to have a change of pace and doesn’t get enough exposure to physical activity (which is most people), the Gauntlet could be for you. The show is looking for contestants 18 years of age or older with a passion for playing games and a desire to compete in grueling physical challenges. (Applicants must also be able to lift heavy objects and work in extreme conditions. The show provides detailed instructions for potential contestants.)
The only downside is that it’s not entirely clear how much actual playing the games entails. On the one hand, contestants are often seen putting in a full day of work, and a press release for the show advertised that it was “a physical game that requires stamina.” On the other hand, the show never explicitly said that the games were difficult or involved physical exertion, which might make some viewers think that it’s a show that wouldn’t really challenge them or offer enough actual gameplay to keep them engaged. Hopefully, the show will clarify this in the near future.
Here To Stay
When the first season of the show premiered in 1995, it was widely considered to be a huge hit and a success in its own right. However, while the show itself never drew particularly high ratings, it did have a loyal audience (at least in the United States), which was evidenced by its lengthy and growing afterlife on DVD and on the Internet. (Some notable episodes also began airing in syndication during the 1990s, further extending its reach.) The A.V. Club put it on their list of “The Most Influential Gaming Talk Shows Of All Time”, adding: “If you haven’t watched the show, you should really give it a shot…to see people who love to play games and have fun competing against each other.” The show also inspired several popular games, including Cards Against Humanity and Werewolf.
While it is true that the theme of the show never explicitly revolved around gambling, it wasn’t uncommon for the games themselves to have a gambling element. And even if that wasn’t the case, it’s always fun to watch two people who love to play cards compete against each other. So, in that sense, the show will always have a home on DVD.