Robot Combat League: Off to a Rock’em Sock’em Start
There was a toy, when I was a kid, that appeared in ads all over the television on Saturday mornings, and just about any time programmers thought boys would be watching. The toy being advertised was called “Rock’em Sock’em Robots” It featured two robots in a boxing ring, with two sets of controls in opposite corners. You could move the robots around a bit and punch to your heart’s content. The object was to land a solid punch in the other robot’s jaw which would cause his head to pop up, ending the round.
I could not help thinking of that old toy when I saw the advertisements and the first episode of Syfy’s new reality show, Robot Combat League. In this show, twelve teams of contestants, each comprised of a person who know something about fighting, sports, or gaming, and a person skilled in electronics and robotics. Each team is given a robot to prepare and to fight in contests each week. Just like in human professional fights, you can win on points, or by knocking the opposing robot out of commission.
The contestants come from a very wide range of backgrounds. Some come from actually working in the field of robotics, including one person who worked on the Mars Curiosity Rover, to pro gamers who bring skill in handling controls, to an actual MMA title holder who is the daughter of a very famous person in the world of science-fiction (who can be spotted in the previews of the show if you watch carefully).
Overseeing the madness is actor/pro wrestler/rocker Chris Jericho, who brings a lot of personal knowledge to this role as the host (or would ringmaster be a better title) of the organized mayhem. He is joined by Dave Farra, host of MMA Fix on Westwood One, and Mark Setrakian, a special effects artist who built all of the robots you see in the show.
The first episode introduced the teams, and the robots. Each robot is uniquely designed, and given a proper name ranging from A.X.E. Who features an ax shaped head with eyes straight out of Battlestar Galactica, to the correctly named Steampunk, to Robo Hammer who just looks like what one might imagine a robot fighter might appear to be.
There was only one fight in the first episode, due to the time restraints of all of the introductions, and the challenge which established the seeds in the tournament. The tournament was not properly explained to the audience, as there were additional brackets at the bottom of the bracket chart, which were shown without any kind of explanation to the audience. Now I like surprises as much as the next guy, but that is a major plot development point in a show like this and some attention should have been placed on getting that done.
When the fight starts, it is as exciting as one might expect with the metal fists flying, the crowd going nuts, and the camera shots of the two teams working to lead their robot to victory, one controlling the robots movements around the ring and the other handling the actually fighting controls. Each fight is a three-round match, with twenty minutes between rounds for needed repairs. If a robot can not continue after that, the match is a technical knock out (TKO). If a robot becomes so badly damaged it can not continue, the judges can stop the fight. If the damaged robot is ruled too badly damaged to continue, it is a KO.
This is a very interesting series with a great concept. If it continues in the direction it is going, it could become a very popular show for Syfy, combining sports with some very sci-fi looking combatants. If it is a success, I’d love to see them do a celebrity season of this show, and give Hugh Jackman the chance to actually control and fight a robot.
Robot Combat League runs every Tuesday night at 10pm eastern, after Face Off (another show I truly recommend). I urge you to check out the fights and see the action for yourself, that is if you can handle the sight of robots bleeding hydraulic fluid.