BattleBots Returns for More Epic Robot Destruction
Are you ready to rumble!? Thirteen years after its last televised tournament, BattleBots, the show that pitted brainy teams and their vicious machines against each other, is returning for a six-episode reincarnation on ABC. The reboot, which begins Sunday, June 21, will include, “literally the best fights ever in the history of robot combat,” swears executive producer Greg Munson.
And he would know: Munson and fellow executive producer Ed Roski created the original series that ran on Comedy Central until 2002 and have been in the world of robotic fighting since 1994. When the show returns, the arena size (48×48) and match length (three minutes) will be the same. Other than that? It’s a whole new bot-battling world. Here’s a breakdown of what’s new:
The Weight Classes
THEN: The playing field was divided between lightweights, middleweights, heavyweights and super-heavyweights. “It was sort of a hodge-podge of robot combat,” Munson says.
NOW: Everyone’s in the same weight class—but that doesn’t mean each robot weighs the same amount. “Some of the robots have multi-bots, which means that all of their robots are under [the] 250-pound [maximum],” Roski explains. “So they might have two or three smaller robots and one big robot that weighs around 200 pounds.”
THEN: Looking back, the machines were a bit drab; as Munson puts it, they were basically “rectangles on wheels.”
NOW: They’re coming in all shapes and sizes – one even has a “brain” that changes colors with its emotions! And special skills are now permitted, opening the competition to flying robots and flame-throwing drones. All the extra style gives the machines real personality. Who’s most likely to catch viewers’ eyes? “I would say the fan-favorite for the world is Warhead,” says Roski. “He’s an ingenious, absolutely incredible, eye-candy-ish robot.”
The Power Sources
THEN: “Back in the day, you would have to have 20-pound gel cell led acid batteries, which is akin to the kind of battery you have in your car,” Munson says. The hefty power sources were a hindrance for competitors in the lower weight classes.
NOW: Lithium batteries like those in cell phones offer plenty of power without the weight. “The robots we’re going to be seeing are going to take full advantage of the new battery technology to let them use an even more destructive array of weaponry than we’ve ever seen before,” Munson says.
THEN: “[The Pulverizers] are a beloved arena hazard,” Munson recalls. The giant sledgehammers controlled by the show’s hazard operator, a.k.a. Pulverizer Pete, were especially dangerous for the smaller bots.
NOW: Contestants will wield the Pulverizers themselves. “Part of the game play here is not only to, of course, destroy your opponent’s robot, but you can now do that with the help of the Pulverizers as they are under your control,” he says.
THEN: Wedges, or cantankerous chunky robot blocks, used to take out every team in their wake by pure force. “Back in the day, a wedge could come in and dominate everything,” Munson says.
NOW: The rules require bots have the ability to fight back. “They can’t just come in and be a pusher bot, they have to have a weapon that actually does something, does some real damage,” Munson says.
THEN: Comedy Central never showed much from the area where teams went to repair their machines between matches (Think: NASCAR for robots).
NOW: The pit will get plenty of attention. “Some of the best stories start and end in the pit,” Munson says. “These stories are emotional, dramatic, exciting, and it’s great that it’s going to be shown for the first time.”
THEN: There were tons of ’em. About the robot building, about the fights, anything and everything you can imagine.
NOW: The rule book has been trimmed from 50 pages to five to allow for more creativity.
THEN: The original show aired in the early 2000s when reality TV was still getting its legs. So of course some of the teams came off as a bit cheesy. “You got comedic stories before, and the robot builders did silly stories and skits” Munson remembers.
NOW: “We’re getting true back stories of who they really are, where they come from, what’re their hopes and dreams – who they are as people,” he says.
The BattleBots Staff
THEN: Bil Dwyer, Sean Salisbury and Tim Green served as hosts, with a rotating cast of correspondents that included Baywatch’s Donna D’Errico, Carmen Electra and Traci Bingham. Bill Nye was the technical expert, and the match announcer was popular boxing ring announcer Mark Beiro.
NOW: Hosted by NFL anchor Molly McGrath, with analysis from sports broadcasting vet Chris Rose and commentary from former UFC fighter Kenny Florian. We’ll also see sideline reporters Allison Haislip and Bobak Ferdowsi, as well as ring announcer (and the new voice of BattleBots) Faruq Tauheed. There’s also a panel of judges that includes BattleBots competitor and special effects artist Fon Davis, NASA astronaut Leland Melvin and Nerdist’s Jessica Chobot (who we swear wasn’t cast for how closely her last name resembles “robot.”)
BattleBots, Premieres Sunday, June 21, 9/8c, ABC