Mechanical mayhem. Rock ’em sock ’em piles of mass destruction. Metallic shards and scraps flying into the air. Part science class, part reality TV show, these are just a few descriptions of what happens when hundreds of pounds of velocity meets metal in the robot combat show, BattleBots! After 10 seasons airing on a variety of networks with a variety of hosts, how do you improve upon the concept? One way is to create a spin-off show, featuring a separate robot competition involving legends of the sport. Born is BattleBots: Bounty Hunters. Each robot show offers a whole lotta good stuff, via different formats. And after watching both, you’ll immediately realize that Bounty Hunters is much better than BattleBots: Fight Night!
I’ve been a fan of the show from the very first second I caught it airing on Comedy Central. There was nothing quite like it broadcast on television. The sport has gained popularity throughout the years, appearing in some form at various live events (including Dragon Con, where I watched upon front-row seats several years ago). Now there’s two robot-fighting shows (frankly, I’m surprised there aren’t any competitors out there). Initially, I was afraid two different programs offering bot-on-bot violence wasn’t going to succeed. I’m glad I was proven wrong.
Bounty Hunters creates a scenario where the predator becomes prey. Eight teams compete for a $25,000 prize purse to win three fights in a row to challenge a “legend” of the sport. All of this action takes place within one episode. Each one feels like it has less downtime, far fewer filler moments and general wasted airtime than Fight Night. Episodes of both shows take place within two-hour blocks, but the action feels faster in Bounty Hunters.
Last year I wondered aloud about Fight Night‘s playoff requirements. They always seemed to change. I just wanted something set in stone. And at the conclusion of Fight Night‘s most recent season, I wondered What Happened to BattleBots‘ Desperado Tournament? It seems Bounty Hunters was the answer!
I didn’t realize I needed a spotlight showdown featuring some of the greats of the sport. The grand finale to Fight Night (2020) felt kind of anticlimactic because Bite Force, the back-to-back champ didn’t compete. The opposite was true for Bounty Hunters‘ first season (although it was a missed opportunity not getting the champ onto one episode). Each match might not have offered high-level competition, but there was almost always a terrific final battle. Comparing the two shows, Fight Night feels like it has better storylines, while Bounty Hunters feels like it offers more destruction (and prize money). But I’ve got a few ideas on how to improve both formats.
In a perfect world, BattleBots would offer a tiered competition, along with one more spin off: Create a show featuring nothing but beginner bot designers, drivers and fighters. Graduates of that program, along with other intermediate fighters, could compete in Bounty Hunters. And the best of both those bunches could graduate to Fight Night. That simply feels like a no-brainer. Why hasn’t Discovery already made these changes?
Bring back more retired competitors. Having Team Icewave return was a terrific changing-of-the-guard moment. The same could have happened for Son of Whyachi, had the original driver returned. The rest of the legacy spotlights on Bounty Hunters offered current Fight Night competitors. I’d rather each show offer unique competitors, so the showdowns would be separate for each series.
The roles of Pit Reporter Jenny Taft and Bot Whisperer Peter Abrahamson need to be more prominent. Throughout the entire last season, I felt like Pete was a wasted opportunity. He barely gets any airtime. When he does, the 10 seconds he speaks are ALWAYS more insightful than the lame jokes hosts Chris Rose and Kenny Florian crack ad nauseum. I felt like he received a little more airtime on Bounty Hunters, but with his knowledge, he deserves to speak up before and during every match. Not just randomly.
Jenny’s role feels more fluid. I actually thought moving the roles of hers and Pete’s to each separate show would create more opportunities for each of them. When that didn’t happen, I kind of feel like she could be used more often for post-match interviews in the pits with rival competitors, bringing more opinions into the show. That means the hosts should lose their post-match interviews. I’d be happy with that, as they already take up way too much airtime.
I realize the 2021 season for BattleBots has already begun preproduction. But if these slight adjustments could be made, we, the fans, would benefit greatly. And should a new show be created? Filming the beginners, intermediates and the best BattleBots has to offer would mean an even longer amount of time that the show remains on the air, extending its season and bringing joy to those who love to see the bots bring the destruction. Can’t wait for Season 11 to air!