First of all, it's way overproduced. They stole the pro wrestling production trick (or, um, I've heard it's a pro wrestling trick) of changing camera angles way too often so you can't really figure out what's going on. In events like Hang Tough and The Eliminator, it makes it much more difficult to get a sense of the space, and in events like Joust it's just distracting.
Where the old events changed, they mostly changed for the worse. Hang Tough only has 5 rows of rings between the two starting platforms (though it's kind of difficult to notice because of the previous problem), leaving much less room for strategy. Powerball has scoring cylinders with wide rims, making basketball shots a viable strategy, when the whole point of the original was to eliminate that possibility. The best change was creating a 5-point scoring zone in Pyramid, an incredibly hard event, to give the contenders something realistic to shoot for. But even that was inspired by a rule in the original international competitions, so I can't give full credit for it.
The most egregious change is that there are only 4 events before the Eliminator! The first season or two of AG had 5 events, but then they changed to 6 because they realized they could, and because they realized that athleticism sold the show, not talking. One season, the first event started within 5 seconds of the show's start, before credits or introductions or anything. Now, in the era of reality TV, we're supposed to care about the talking.
Aside from less action, the main drawback of fewer events is the extra emphasis put on the Eliminator. It's hard for a contender to pull out to a big lead before the main event, so Eliminator times are by comparison more important. This is even more true since the Eliminator is so long. It was originally not uncommon for a man to have a head start of approximately 25% of the Eliminator run (30 points, 15 seconds, and even the late-season Eliminators of the original series were approximately a minute long). But who cares about even a 10-second head start, the biggest plausible lead these days unless one contender is completely overmatched, in a course over 120 seconds long?
Not only is the Eliminator much longer than before, it's also poorly designed. There are too many obstacles early in the Eliminator that offer no real penalty for "failing". (I love the Rolling Log for its Sasuke reference, but I don't even get what the goal is, since falling off early is no drawback at all. Also, I wonder if we'll go a full season without a woman completing the hand bike. It's faster for them, and some men, to just drop off right away anyway. No penalty.) By contrast, the Travelator moves too fast for an event that comes after 2 straight minutes of obstacles, and I don't enjoy watching more than half of the competitors slip on it. The entire competition, therefore, regardless of the first 4 events or who does stuff like the hand bike better, comes down to who sucks less on the Travelator.
I'm not a fan of the new referee. I don't mind the "3, 2, 1" countdown before each event; it's a nice reference to the original international shows. But he's way too boisterous, and too unwilling to make tough calls. Larry Thompson was the best.
And it's just not the same without Mike Adamle. Or Nitro.
However, my final verdict: A-minus. American Gladiators is back!!!! Woohoo!!!!