Probably a firm favourite of many and unnoticed by everyone else. I was slap-bang in the target audience for the show. Airing at 6pm on BBC 2 back when the BBC didn’t have the rights for enough episodes of The Simpsons to air it every night.
The premise of the programme was simple. Robots fighting against each other. No AI involved, they were all remote controlled. At least I think they all were. Those that controlled the ‘House Robots’ to the best of my recollection were never talked about or seen.
Those House Robots had names like Sir Kilalot and Matilda or my favourite at the time Roadblock – don’t ask me why it was my favourite but this fighting machine was made from a Road Closed sign, witty stuff.
Going against the House Robots were the competitors. These robots were built by members of the public. There were some expert teams but also sometimes teams consisting of father and sons which was probably half the appeal of someone my age at the time.
The robots were no soft-touch. There were saw blades, flame cutters and many spikes and jagged edges. But everything took place inside a perspex walled arena so no health and safety concerns here.
The action in the arena was hosted, for the first series by Jeremy Clarkson. He was probably the perfect host but at the time was a lot more marmite and less popular he was ousted for the following series in favour of Craig Charles.
Jeremy/Craig were joined by Phillipa Forrester (and probably others during various series) as backstage reporters. They would interview the teams and ask questions like ‘do you think you can fix it?’ When the team had suffered at the house robots.
The battles were entertaining to watch. Sometimes they’d be over quickly and the House Robots would make a show of their victories, circling around before placing the immobilised opponent into the kill zone (a small drop in the arena floor). Occasionally too robots would basically commit suicide or simply never get going.
It was all exciting enough but ramped up more by Jonathon Pearce and his massively over the top commentary style. In many ways Jonathon made the programme. You could switch most of the elements but his commentary was essential.
After a few series I became bored, so did the BBC so it was dropped before being picked up by Channel 5. It was then revived briefly by BBC 2 in more recent times.