In 1998 the UK aired the first gladiatorial contest between robots with Robot Wars, shortly after; two years after, BattleBots, the American version hit TV screens across the pond. Now ABC is offering this redux of a fan favorite from the US which is really just the UK Robot Wars with American hype, gloss and more than a touch of glamor but still good fun. In both shows the names of the fighting machines are, perhaps, the best part of the show.
Nightmare, Warrior Clan, Plan X, Razorback, Wrecks and Bite Force are just some of the names that viewers will come across. A blend of new challengers, such as the Brit team and their bot Warhead, facing old favorites like Bite Force. The one annoying thing about the American version of the show is the tendency to declare that the US did this first, “Beginning in San Francisco…” may be true but the first TV show started in England with much less of that glossy finish that overshadows BattleBots.
Robot Wars was filmed in what felt like an old warehouse somewhere with seats brought in and clear safety plexiglas sides set up so the cameras could see that action. One thing about the earlier Brit iteration of the show was that the UK hazards were much worse than the new ABC version’s. The deadliest trap in the arena in BattleBots must be the hammer and the screw feels a bit useless so far.
Not having seen the original US series, which ran from 2000 to 2002 and, according to a commenter on the IMDb message board, featured a Playboy model as presenter, perhaps the first time around the hazards were worse. One thing that has not changed are the contestants who all posture and preen as well as “talk trash” for the camera while showing off their creations.
Just like the old Robot Wars, entirely too much time is spent on hyping the battle. BattleBots tries to give the show a boxing ring atmosphere with an announcer who builds up the opponents with a blend of tired humor and a play on words that just wastes time. After a build up where the hosts explain that these new bots are better and more dangerous, there is a bit of disappointment when reality shows that these gladiator robots are not much different from the one’s featured in the British version aka Robot Wars.
One can be forgiven for believing that British ingenuity is a bit more advanced than the US in terms of robot design. Never mind that the two chaps from Bournemouth ended up having their bot, named Warhead, beaten in a humiliating display of predatory acumen by their US opponent. A simpler machine, and fan favorite, cleaned their collective clock in an impressive bout that shows what works best in BattleBots, or its predecessor Robot Wars; the bouts themselves.
Take away the expert, who is in reality just a sportsman who has been hired to provide color, and the gorgeous all-tanned female co-host and her male counterpart and the show is still infinitely entertaining. Robot geeks and nerds may love the hype and the glitzy glamor of the ABC BattleBots redux, but the bottomline is the cheering fans who get excited by a bit of robotic mayhem.
Gladiators who “kill” their opponents with showers of sparks instead of blood and where gears, cogs and pieces of bots are flung across the arena after being forcibly ripped off. A bloodless and almost G rated fight to the death that may survive a bit longer than the first 2000 version. BattleBots airs Sundays on ABC and can be seen later on Hulu.