BattleBots Redux on ABC Just Glossy UK Robot Wars but Still Fun

Still photo from BattleBots of Warhead
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.

An Arkansas Razorback in Queen Elizabeth Country

Flag of the United States of America
Flag of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My daughter and I were discussing the differences between America and England. She had read a blog or two about Brit’s abroad and living in the US. I thought that they must be interesting and then wondered why I hadn’t thought of doing something similar.

I have always enjoyed living in England. Growing up and watching Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce playing as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s great double act, Holmes and Watson made me long to tread those foggy streets of London. When I was given the opportunity to live here courtesy of Uncle Sam, I couldn’t believe my luck.

I will point out that I have actually lived in the United Kingdom longer than I lived in the country of my birth. I have thought of this castle filled country as my home for at least the last eighteen years. I got out of the USAF as part of the force downsizing drill in the nineties and not too long after applied for citizenship. Luckily for me, I did not have to ‘give up’ my status as an American citizen so I’ve always had the best of both worlds.

Despite the fact that I came to this country with a cloud over my head (that would soon be replaced by the real clouds that so frequently fill the sky in this country) I felt that just walking the streets was a great adventure. For years I would be driving somewhere and see the ruins of a castle or a picturesque thatched cottage and think, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m living here!”

Of course I have now lived here so long, that I don’t have many occasions where I have trouble with the local language or have to learn about traditions or quaint practises of the country. I have, though, developed a strange accent. One that is an odd blend of Arkansan,  American, and English. I live in Suffolk, one of the more rural areas of East Anglia, where you can get trapped behind a tractor for miles on a narrow, two lane road and the local populace all talk like an English version of country bumpkins.

It is a beautiful countryside that still plays havoc with my sinuses, despite having lived full-time in the county since 1990. And each year I await the rape and mustard season with dread knowing that my eyes will water and itch and my nose will steadfastly refuse to work properly until the blasted stuff is harvested.

But back in 1982, I didn’t know about rapeseed and mustard and how much it can affect you. I only knew that I really needed a change of scenery and the positive press I got from my  commander made it sound a bit like heaven. I got my orders and flew to RAF Mildenhall, the “Gateway to Europe” and arrived on the 5th of July 1982. My sponsor, a Staff Sargent from my new unit, met me and helped me get settled in my room.

I had an invite to his place later in the day for a barbecue and he left saying he would come back and pick me up later. I wandered around the wide open base. In those days RAF Mildenhall was pretty much open to the public. The only part of the base that was fenced off was the flight line area. Everything else was easily accessible by everyone.

At the edge of Mildenhall’s archaic base housing was a bus stop and a place called Mickey’s T bar. It boasted American style food and seating. I went in and ordered a double cheese burger. When the owner brought me the burger he pointed to an American style mustard bottle and said if I needed mustard on it, to help my self. I grabbed the squeezable bottle and lathered my cheese burger with mustard.

I then went to a table, sat down and took an enormous bite of instant fire. Eyes watering, I looked at the burger I’d just taken a bite out of in surprise. I hastily grabbed my can of coke and gulped the entire thing down in an effort to stop the burning in my mouth. I carefully put the cheeseburger down on my plate. I went back to the serving counter and bought another coke and asked why the burger was so damn hot.

The owner looked at me oddly and said, “Well of course it’s hot mate, I’ve only just cooked it.” I explained that I didn’t mean temperature hot, but spicy hot. He then started chuckling.

” You didn’t put mustard on did you?”

“Yeah,” I said, “Of course I did.”

“Well that’s not Yank mustard, mate. It’s English. We like our mustard a bit hotter than you lot like yours.” He continued chuckling to himself and after he sold me my second Coke stopped and thoughtfully rubbed his chin. “You know, I probably should mark the bloody thing. We get quite a few of you Yanks in here straight off the plane. Did you just get here?”

I nodded and he offered to make me another cheeseburger, no charge since I’d ‘ruined’ my first one. I said he didn’t have to do that, as I could  just scrape off the excessive amount of mustard that I had put on.  I finished my burger and wandered back to my room for a nap before the barbecue that afternoon.

My first day in England and already I’d learned two valuable  lessons. Not everything was what it seemed here and don’t put too much mustard on your burger.

English mustard.