Making a show about fighting robots into something exciting should be simple. When the words “robot”, “combat”, and “league” are combined, they create emotions only rivaled by the combination of “car wash” and “Eva Mendes.”
However, leave it to Syfy, a channel that had already succeeded in making the search for Bigfoot boring, to create the most lackluster show about punching metal that you’ll ever see. The first episode of Robot Combat League premiered yesterday, and it let me down in nearly every way possible.
If you’re watching this show to learn the technical aspects of what makes the perfect fighting robot, you’ll be disappointed. Robot Combat League tries to make the robots sound like advanced pieces of machinery, but it doesn’t take a genius to describe your robot as having “sharp blades on hands” or “shields on elbows.”
The robots are advanced for no other reason than for the fact that the people watching couldn’t build them. They’re not spectacular pieces of engineering. But don’t tell that to the guy that designed them, Mark Setrakian.
Mark can barely contain his enthusiasm for the lumbering things he’s created. He has an intensity that makes it seem like he’s seeing different robots than we are, and he’s got the boner to prove it. He states that every robot has its own personality, which makes me even more unsettled about the guy, because someone this into robots has no choice but to next create some that are built to crush all those narrow-minded human fools that surround him.
There are about a dozen robots and they’re each controlled by pairs of the lamest people ever. We understand that they’re lame, because, out of all the things they ever said during the filming of the show, the editors never fail to pick the worst possible things. Mostly, it’s a nerdy guy seeing his robot’s fists and squealing “We have knives!” or just a nerdy guy making an unintelligible sound.
It’s kind of funny though to see all the pilots, especially during the reveal of the robot, Brimstone, which is a robot apparently modeled after what happens when a trash can is born with fetal alcohol syndrome, show the greatest expression of joy that I’ve ever seen a real person display on TV. They’re gonna get to fight some fucking robots. Little do they know that “fight” in Robot Combat League is just a synonym for “bump pleasantly.”
There are two pilots for each robot, but the contestants might as well try to control the robots by thinking about rubbing host Chris Jericho’s hair rather than actually strapping into the suits. One person controls the movement and the other controls the punches, and rarely do they match up to form any kind of graceful action.
The fights mainly consist of two robots slowly swinging around each other’s bodies as they perform a dance step that I’d like to call “Please don’t hit me. I’m a mentally disabled robot.”
It also doesn’t help that some of the show’s participants throw punches like their trying to coax their cat off a mantle, but it’s impossible to punch anything properly when your arms are attached to what looks like a cheap cosplayer’s “Ripley at the end of Aliens” suit. Also, there’s commentary done for each bout, and with action of this variety, everything the commentators say usually ends up being “Look at that robot hit that other robot! Goddamn, ESPN. I have kids to feed.”
The fight at the end of the first episode is between two robots called “Crash” and “Steel Cyclone.” It starts off impressively with Steel Cyclone’s foot breaking off immediately and with the first round ending because Crash starts spewing liquids from his arm after a gentle love tap from Cyclone.
The second round is much more furious, with both robots trying to give each other one-armed side hugs until Steel Cyclone just dies, probably to avoid the shame he would bring to his fellow robots upon reporting the loss to Megatron.
Will I watch Robot Combat League again? Probably. But not for the robots. The best show to feature artificial, semi-human shapes being nasty to each other is already Cougar Town. No, I’ll be watching to see if Chris Jericho can maintain such perfect hair. Is it real? Is his hair a robot? I can’t wait to find out!