There’s one thing that always bugged me about British television, it always felt cheap to me. From classic Doctor Who and even more modern BBC shows, it isn’t just production value, which is typically much lower, it’s the writing and the expectations that are much, much lower. This struck me recently as I was watching the reborn British Robot Wars, it was hard not to compare it to the American Battlebots, and unfortunately, the UK version simply doesn’t compare favorably. Here’s why, at least in my opinion.
The whole robot fighting television genre started in 1998 with Robot Wars, and it quickly moved to America in 2000 with Battlebots. Of course, there had been organized robot fights before that, but once it hit television, all bets were off. When robots fight, robots die and leave their entrails scattered all over the arena.
But honestly, the production value and hosting for Battlebots is absurdly better than for Robot Wars. Not only that, but the attitudes of the contestants in Robot Wars is just absurd. For Battlebots, people show up with working robots that have been extensively tested and well thought out. They are typically more expensive builds that are reliable and effective. Robot Wars, though, is anything but. People show up with bots that have never been tested, that have just been slapped together out of junk in a week or two and some have never been driven before they enter the arena. And they put these on TV? What the hell?
Seriously, I have yet to see a single bot in the new Robot Wars that would last 30 seconds in the American battlebox. Your typical American bot would just shred the best the UK has to offer on the first hit.
And let’s talk about the battleboxes. At least in the new shows, the American Battlebots is designed to pit bot against bot. The UK show is designed to pit bots against the arena. I find the pit to be the most ridiculous thing because most bouts end with someone falling into the pit, either being pushed there, or more likely simply falling in because of poor driving skills. It doesn’t tell us anything about the quality or lethality of the bots themselves, it only proves that British bot builders can’t drive worth a damn.
Between the two shows, Battlebots is far and away superior in every way. It has better production values, better hosting, a better arena and far, far, far better bots. The competition is actually entertaining, unlike the UK series. You rarely see bots littered all over the place on Robot Wars, but it happens half a dozen times a week in America. All in all, Robot Wars just feels cheap. That doesn’t mean they have to throw a ton of money at it, it just feels like they don’t really care, it’s just something to throw on television and it really doesn’t matter. But that’s how I feel about most British television, most especially things on the BBC. It could be better. It should be better. They just don’t care.