Robot Wars

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.

Yes, watching a cheese shaped roadsign was how we entertained ourselves in the new Millennium!

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 arena where it all took place.

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.

Comedy Corner: Look Around You (Series 2)

Welcome into my Comedy Corner, where I write about lesser-spotted television comedy programmes most people have forgotten.

You have probably worked out that I like television and I like nostalgia. That is fundementally what this entire blog is about. Look Around You was a comedy based on the same things. The first series was a set of short ten minute episodes parodying old schools TV progammes from the 1970s. I may write about that series at a later date, today however I want to go into detail about the second series.

The simple reason for my reverse order is that I saw the second series first, but it was very different to the first running for six half-hour episodes and being a parody of Tomorrow’s World. The writing team of Peter Serafenowiz and Robert Popper were the same but there were aditional reoccuring cast members in the shape of Josie D’Arby (who I grew up watching as a Children’s BBC presenter) and Olivia Coleman, who is a massive star these days.

Each episode had a theme, sport, music etc. The show was presented by the cast who were all suitably attired and in a very brown studio which you’d typically find in the 1980s along with the theme tune which was brilliantly synthasied as you would expect.

While I am critiquing the attention to detail on making this look like a genuine archive programme I should mention that the show (which aired on BBC 2) was preceded with a period BBC 2 logo. To keep things looking authentic, the programme wasn’t even broadcast in widescreen – which almost all new programmes were by this point.

The comedy was slightly wacky and off the wall. The various ‘Inventor of the Year’ inventions were basically ridiculous. There was a gender swapping machine and a spray on skin spray. There was a Music 2000 competition which resulted in one of the hosts, Robert Popper launching a music career.

Thank’s Ants… Thants.

Peter created Portmanu to thank the guests every episode.

The culmination of the series came with the final episode and the Inventor of the Year. This episode featured Prince Charles – not a look alike – the real deal, pasted in from a genuine Tomorrow’s World episode and redubbed by Peter Serafenowiz. He is always refered to as H.R.H. Sir Prince Charles, which of course is incorrect.

In keeping with the general humour of the series overall, things go awry when one of the hopeful inventors goes mad, which results in Prince Charles face being completely removed with the spray-on skin. The programme goes ‘off the air’ and is replaced by what looks like a genuine schedule filler from the time about birds (It’s actually a film that was made for the first series DVD) before returning to the studio with sombre voices and faces.

While most of the content was ridiculous the attention to detail was amazing. If I was to pick on one bit that was a letdown it would be the giant ‘air-lock’ space age entrance that guests entered through which was clearly CGI, but I honestly think that over-the-top look was all part of the joke.

After watching the second series, I then bought the first series on DVD. Having seen how both were completely different I hoped for a third series, maybe with Look Around You being a parody of a regional news programme or something similar – but sadly there were no further Look Around You’s, but thanks guys… thuys.

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