Last night on ABC there were two shows that aired back-to-back hoping to revitalize a cult classic by giving it new life after having existed for more than a decade. One show made me feel sad for Steve Harvey’s career and the notion of what constitutes a “celebrity” in the modern day and the other one didn’t. That show was not BattleBots.
After having been laid to rest by Comedy Central back in 2002, the robot fighting tournament show was brought back with a vengeance in last night’s series premiere on ABC. The network has went in big-time on BattleBots by bringing it to a much larger potential audience than it ever saw on Comedy Central and ramping up the production budget for the show.
Up front we are greeted with who will be the commentators and the three hosts for this season of BattleBots. The commentators for the battles include UFC Fight Night color commentator and former UFC fighter Kenny Florian and host of the MLB Network’s Intentional Talk Chris Rose. Granted, there are no veteran robot fighting color commentators out there so ABC is going on a hunch as to whose best suited to call bot fights. Joined alongside Rose and Florian as co-host in the Carmen Electra role is an actual sportscaster and not just a marketing ploy in Molly McGrath.
The move to have McGrath as a co-host is definitely a bit of twist with respect to sports media. McGrath is employed by Fox Sports as she hosts FS1’s SportsCenter knock-off America’s Pregame and a sideline reporter during college football season (I was on the sidelines next to her at the end of an Oregon Ducks game and it was…well, nothing since I was around Nike CEO Phil Knight and so star power doesn’t phase me). With BattleBots being on ABC which is owned by Disney who also owns ESPN, this could be something to keep an eye on down the road. With Fox Sports stealing Erin Andrews away from ESPN in 2012, we might see ESPN steal Fox’s up and coming sportscaster as payback with a potential Erin Andrews heir successor Britt McHenry stubbing her toe just a bit a few months ago.
Anyways, let’s get to the recap on the four battles that took place in yesterday’s episode.
BATTLE 1: Razorback vs Icewave
The first robot battle of the season pitted two newcomers to BattleBots against each other. The creator of Icewave, a wedge robot that looks like a blue mannequin head in the center of a thin metal box with a 360 degree spinning metal board stuck in between the two as a weapon, is someone who was inspired as a child to build robots after watching BattleBots. That inspiration as since spawned him creating a million dollar company that specializes in telecommuting robots that look like someone stuck an iPad on top of a small Segway. The creator of Razorback…had 15 seconds of airtime. Apparently they said something about how Razorback is designed much-like a military bomb defusing robots. I think you know where this is going.
Icewave went on the attack and immediately did damage right away. Having the clear advantage in weaponry and maneuverability, it targeted one of Razorback’s wheels to wound it. Once that was accomplished, Icewave went at Razorback over and over again until it won by knockout.
While Icewave showed plenty of promise, I’m not convinced to give it a lock to go a great distance in the competition just yet. Icewave is a rare example of a robot that runs on an internal combustion engine rather than solely on an electric battery power source. At the tail end of its battle, Icewave began to experience a large amount of smoke due to this engine with something potentially catching fire inside the bot. If Icewave comes into battle with any robot that can hit the head of the robot, which is where the engine is stored, and disrupt it than that could pose serious problems to Icewave. Also, Icewave does not have a self righting mechanism so if a flipper bot flips it then Icewave is doomed.
BATTLE 2: Plan X vs Wrecks
Plan X is the first sign of the original BattleBots in this new series. Plan X was built by the same mind that built the famous lightweight bot Tentoumushi back in the day. Plan X though has much stronger weaponry as it is equipped with a vertical spinning arm at the front. The character remains however from Tentoumushi with a small electric brain that changes color placed in the center of Plan X replacing a ladybug sandbox cover.
Wrecks…well, in all honestly, I have never laughed at a robot more in a battle than I did at Wrecks during this battle. Now, just stay with me here. Wrecks is a bot with a vertical spinning blade as its weapon (seems pretty straight-forward, no abnormalities). Wrecks has no wheels…and no tread tires. That’s right, a bot without wheels. Now you might be asking, how does it move? Well, Wrecks has attached, on the back of it, a horizontal metal bar with a bent metal wedge shaped like this (>) on each end with the open end facing toward the front blade. Wrecks moves around the arena by rocking its body back and forth and using the momentum is generates to move is forward or turn itself.
It was the most comical thing I have ever seen in a bot fight. This was funnier than any of the Robot Wars moments where bots ran into the pit on their own accord after pushing the pit release button themselves (can’t think of the battle off the top of my head but I know it happened at least once) or were flipped out of the arena like they weighed nothing.
Plan X won but only because Wrecks’s maneuverability was that of a one-year-old rolling around on the carpet. It’s a shame to as at the end when Plan X was caught on the arena floor by something and Wrecks was slowly able to move its blade into position, the weapon dealt a considerable amount of damage to Plan X. Don’t expect Plan X to win in the next round unless the other bot it faces has a heart attack immediately after the battle starts.
BATTLE 3: Warhead vs Biteforce
In the battle hyped by BattleBots leading up to the premiere, Warhead took on Biteforce that reminded me exactly of when Warhead competed in the last season of the original BattleBots. Remember how in my preview I said I didn’t want another Storm 2 incident? Well, Biteforce ended up upsetting Warhead in the same way Storm 2 and fellow Robot Wars bot Tornado defeated Warhead’s predecessor Razer.
Here’s the thing, ramming bots a lot of times are not fun to watch. Rammer bots remind of the kids in middle school who developed first and thus were able to accrue more muscle mass than other kids. However, these early developed kids always ended up being dunce bullies who shoved smaller kids around for the fun of it. Biteforce bullied Warhead hardcore.
After watching this battle, one would easily wonder where the name “Biteforce” came from as the only weapon it deployed was running into Warhead over and over again and pushing it around the arena until the very end when it began using its lifting weapon. Biteforce had a metal wedge put on the back of it that was used to deflect Warhead’s spinner and even get under the spinner to catch it and treat the bot like a rag doll. Warhead was bullied hard by being pushed into the wall corkscrews and into the corners with the pulverizing hammers. Warhead was unable to gather any sort of momentum and was bullied hard into defeat. The creator of Biteforce then swept Molly McGrath into his arms and carried her out of the studio with the theme song to Rocky playing in the background while the camera panned over Warhead as it was crying in the fetal position because nice guys always finish last.
BATTLE 4: Warrior Clan vs Nightmare
The final battle of the episode pitted two of the most well-known bot teams from the original BattleBots. Nightmare, who was probably happy his first round opponent wasn’t Warhead who knock it out of the last BattleBots tournament in devastating fashion, was pitted up against the veteran bot creators Team Whyachi who made Whyachi and Son of Whyachi which equally devastated other bots during their time in the original BattleBots. However, Warrior Clan is not like Whyachi and Son of Whyachi because, as you know, you always have to scrap the winning robot design for a series reboot. Warrior Clan is made up of one large bot with a nearly full-body spinner and a flipper at the front alongside two smaller bots that are nothing more than the robot equivalents to gnats.
Nightmare began strong, showing just how worthless the two smaller bots were by ripping one of them completely apart with one hit by its massive vertical blade that has been redesigned from the original full circular blade to a bow-shaped circular blade. Warrior Clan though was able to expose Nightmare’s biggest weakness, the top-heavy nature of its design, and flip it on its side. From there, Nightmare spent the rest of the match showing us its improv routine about a fish out of water.
Due to the new format of the show, the losers of each first round battle will be put into a loser’s bracket. From there, the 12 eventual first-round losers will compete for 4 final spots alongside the 12 eventual first-round winners. From what I take by how much they hyped them, I’m going to assume ABC really hopes Warhead is one of those four teams. Here’s hoping their next opponent is Nightmare because I think everyone would love to see if Nightmare can get is revenge or if it will be destroyed in the same gruesome fashion as the last time they fought each other.