BattleBots is back! June 21st marked the triumphant return of the defunct Comedy Central show, now on ABC, that featured hot robot on robot fighting mayhem. I do have a soft spot in my heart for the original incarnation of this show, so I was a tad afraid the move to a major network would make for a watered down product or something treated with such ridiculousness that it would be bound to fail. I was excited, but expected to be critical.
So how did the show fair in it’s new major network form?
In a couple words: Very entertaining. But a couple words makes for a boring overview!
BattleBots is hosted this time around by former cheerleader turned sports journalist and commentator Molly McGrath, who seems to bring a genuine enthusiasm to the show. It really helps the production, as an uninterested host could really kill the atmosphere.
Commentating on fights is retired MMA fighter Kenny Florian and sportscaster Christopher Rose. Of the two, Kenny actually seems to know a bit more about the ins and outs of what is going on with the bouts. Christopher Rose is just adorable at times in his innocent ignorance. They both do a great job on commentating though; everyone presenting is giving this show an air of legitimacy but they also don’t take themselves too seriously. There is a bit of cheese here and there, but you should really expect that from the subject. We are talking about fighting robots here!
The show itself will be largely familiar to viewers of older seasons, especially with a few of the teams that are returning from the shows original incarnation. There is one big change that does end up streamlining the whole tournament, which is the removal of weight classes. Instead of having similar tiered robots fighting in their own classes, all robots conform to a single weight class. Something really interesting is they are allowing for more than one robot to be controlled by a team, meaning you see some teams with little decoy bots and helpers. The helper bots made for some cool dynamics so far.
This first season will consist of six episodes, with four bouts a show. Twenty four teams are fighting for sixteen spots in the initial push, 12 won spots and 4 wildcards. The line-up is a refreshing mix of new talent and faces that I fondly remember from watching the older episodes. It’s really cool to see not just how some people have come along in the intervening years, but what technology and design advancements the years have brought.
The arena is damn near the same, featuring all the old hazards the BattleBots of past possessed. Fights play out the same. This isn’t a reimagining of BattleBots, this operates as a continuation. It is actually pretty heartening to see they are not completely disavowing the original show. They reference it a few time, and even have some throwback clips for returning competitors.
All in all, ABC looks to be taking this series seriously. Enough that the end product is very entertaining. Maybe I am just a huge nerd, but a couple of the fights in the first episode had me on the edge of my seat. If for some reason you were not a fan of the original show or the similar show Robot Wars — or if this concept just sounds ridiculous — there might not be much for you. I still say you should give an episode a chance and see if the hype doesn’t rope you in. BattleBots mixes competition, science, tech, and general geekery into a great stew that is hard to not enjoy while consuming.
If you want to learn more about the robots and teams involved, the YouTube channel Tested has a couple great videos letting you get to know the combatants.
BattleBots airs on ABC on Sundays at 9:00pm EST. Find out more about the new BattleBots at their site.