Syfy’s Robot Combat League

The Syfy Channel premiered a new show last night, Robot Combat League. It’s a reality competition show in the vein of the recent Hugh Jackman movie, Real Steel or a bigger than life Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Two-person teams (a driver and a fighter) control ten-foot-tall fighting robots, and each week a fight will mean the end of one robot and its team.

The whole thing is a wild spectacle. Chris Jericho, a former WWE wrestler hosts. And each robot has a vague theme. For example, “Crash” has a roll cage mounted on its frame, and “Commander” looks like a tank. Teams include NASA scientists and MMA fighters (including the daughter of George Lucas, interestingly enough).

But, ultimately, I think the show ends up being a spectacle that is part and parcel Syfy’s push toward schlocky movies and other nonsense. More Spike Network, less science fiction. I say schlock because it’s a lot of hype, flash, trash talking, and drama. They have a color commentator for fights that last only a few minutes, for pete’s sake.

And the fights themselves–granted, I’ve only seen one so far–seem a clunky affair. Because the robots have a balance bar, they move very much like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. While some punches can land, it’s a lot of bouncing around and banging into one another. It seemed more dependent on luck than skill. Robot Combat League–whose hydraulic lines will last longer? And the robots seem to be built on very similar frames, so there isn’t a lot of unique differences like the other robot fighting shows from years past (which is just a fun sentence to write).

It’s silly fluff, but if you like bright colors and loud noises, you might like it. I mean, we do have a month between football ending and March Madness starting, and there are only so many hockey games to fill the gap. But maybe in a few years, if you can have better, more idiosyncratic robots, this might be something worth tuning into.

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