BattleBots is an American competition television series. Competitors design and operate remote-controlled armed and armored machines designed to fight in an arena combat elimination tournament. For five seasons, BattleBots aired on the American Comedy Central and was hosted by Bil Dwyer, Sean Salisbury, and Tim Green. Comedy Central's first season premiered on August 30, 2000, and its fifth and last season ended on December 21, 2002.
A six-episode revival series premiered on ABC on June 21, 2015 to generally favorable reviews and ratings. ABC has renewed BattleBots for a seventh season, which premiered on June 23, 2016.
BattleBots is an offshoot of the original American version of Robot Wars, the brainchild of Marc Thorpe. Robot Wars had financial backing from Sm:)e communications, a New York record company. The Thorpe/Sm:)e partnership broke up in 1997, starting many years of legal wrangling between Thorpe and Profile Records (the former Sm:)e communications). Profile licensed Robot Wars to a UK production company and Robot Wars ran for seven years as a popular television program in the UK.
The robot builders left behind in San Francisco formed BattleBots, Inc. and began a series of competitions. The first was held in Long Beach, California in August 1999 and streamed online, attracting 40,000 streams. Lenny Stucker, a television producer known for his work on telecasts of professional boxing, was in attendance, and showed interest in being involved with BattleBots—believing the concept of robot combat was "hip" and having shown an interest in technology. Stucker made changes to the competition's format and presentation to make it more suitable for television, including elements reminiscent of boxing (such as a red and blue corner) and shifting to a single-elimination format. The creators tried selling the competition as a television series to networks such as CBS, NBC, HBO, and Showtime—but they failed to understand the concept of the program or take it seriously. A second event was held as a pay-per-view in Las Vegas in 1999; the PPV was in turn, used as a pilot to pitch the show again, with a higher rate of success.
Among the networks interested was Comedy Central, who would ultimately pick up the program. Debbie Liebling, the network's Senior Vice President of original programming and development, felt that the concept would appeal to the network's young adult demographic, explaining that "it was really funny, and really nerdy. The Internet was not a big thing yet, so the nerd culture wasn't so celebrated. It was sports for the nerdy person, I guess."Co-creator Greg Munson viewed the deal as a double-edged sword; it gave BattleBots an outlet and a larger budget, but Comedy Central insisted on the addition of comedic elements to BattleBots as a program, such as sketches involving contestants. However, the competition itself was not affected by this mandate; Liebling described the final product as being "a parody of a sports show without being a parody". Munson also noted that Comedy Central "rarely" followed his suggestion of having "attractive geek girls" with sufficient knowledge to speak with builders as co-hosts, electing to keep "throwing bigger and better hot babes at it", such as Carmen Electra.
Despite this, viewership and awareness of BattleBots grew progressively over time; contestants Christian Carlberg and Lisa Winter would be invited to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, BattleBots beat South Park as Comedy Central's highest-rated program for a period during season 3, competitor interest grew, and licensing deals also emerged. The success of BattleBots, however, resulted in competition from other broadcasters; TLC introduced a competing program, Robotica, while other channels imported episodes of the British Robot Wars series. By April 2003 popularity fell and the show was cancelled.
In December 2014, ABC announced that it had picked up a six-episode revival of BattleBots, produced by Whalerock Industries, to premiere in June 2015. Roski and Munson served as executive producers, joined by Lloyd Braun.
The Arena Edit
The BattleBox is a 48' x 48' square arena designed to protect the drivers, officials, and audience from flying shrapnel and charging bots. It was originally designed by Pete Lampertson. For the 2015 season, Pete is still overseeing the box with the help of Matt Neubauer. It has a steel floor and steel-framed walls and roof paneled with thick, bulletproof polycarbonate plastic. The teams bring their robots in through doorways, which are sealed after all humans have exited. The drivers control their machines from outside the sealed arena.
Arena hazards are intended to make fights more interesting and unpredictable, and to reward drivers who can avoid the hazards while pushing or carrying their opponent into them. Hazards from the first five seasons include:
- Pulverizers: Originally pneumatic powered standard sledgehammers that did minimal damage, the Pulverizers were first upgraded to 50 pound aluminum mallets for season 2, and were again upgraded to 150 pound mallets for season 3 and beyond. The pulverizers were capable of causing serious damage to the lighter weight class robots.
- Spike Strips: The lower walls of the arena are lined with inward pointing 6-inch long sharpened steel spikes. Pushing an opponent hard into a wall can sometimes lodge it into the spikes, immobilizing it.
- Spinners: Large, rapidly spinning discs embedded in the arena floor, Not intended to damage a robot, but rather to interfere with navigation. The spinners could fling lighter class robots across the arena, but the impact on heavier robots was minimal
- Kill Saws: Spinning circular saw blades that rise out of slots in the arena floor under the control of "Pulverizer Pete". These carbide-tipped saw blades can damage a robot's tires or chassis. In later seasons, red 'throwing blades' were added to increase the chance of a bot being thrown across the arena.
- Pistons: Introduced in Season 3, the Pistons are steel columns that raise and lower from the floor without warning. They can stop a charging robot or tip a slow moving robot onto its side. The Pistons were removed for Seasons 4 and 5.
- Ramrods: Sharpened steel spikes that rise up out of the arena floor in groups of six, serving either to lift a robot off the ground or damage vulnerable portions of the undercarriage.
- Hell Raisers: A pneumatic ram can tilt up specific sections of the arena floor. The 15 degree tilt may become a launching ramp, or may abruptly block passage. The Hell Raisers were removed for Season 5 to allow more uncluttered room for the robots.
- Screws: Introduced for season 3, these devices were a modification to the static spike strips. The screws were continually rotating augers placed horizontally along the edges of the arena floor. The Screws were intended to scrape up a bot, and possibly drag it closer to the Pulverizers due to the corkscrew design. Much like the Spinners, the Screws had a greater effect on the lighter weight classes—although their impact on all weight classes was small. For Season 5, the screws were upgraded with biting 'teeth' to better catch onto robots. Their rotation was also modified so that instead of 'pushing' in one direction, they converged in a corner from opposite directions and created a 'V' that could damage or turn over robots.
Long Beach 1999 Edit
Las Vegas 1999 Edit
Season 1.0 Edit
- Super Heavyweight: Vladiator
- Heavyweight: Son of Whyachi
- Middleweight: Hazard
- Lightweight: Dr. Inferno Jr.
- Super Heavyweight: Diesector
- Heavyweight: BioHazard
- Middleweight: T-Minus
- Lightweight: Dr. Inferno Jr.