Wow. Reality concepts don’t come any goofier than “Deadliest Warrior,” which sounds like an argument that guys would have after way too many beers — as in, “Who would win in a fight, a Samurai or a Viking?” Alas, that’s a later episode of this oddball series, which opens with an Apache-Gladiator matchup. Even generous sprays of blood (and there are those) can’t redeem a show that’s 90% filler before its final showdown, in which two stuntmen play out a “fight” based on computer simulations. All told, it makes a Universal Studios stunt show look like “Masterpiece Theatre.”
Actually, there is precedent for using computer modeling to stage mythical fights, though that historically involved pitting boxing champions from different eras, say, against each other. Here, it’s really an excuse for further time-wasting in the gear-head TV genre, inasmuch as the show employs life-like mannequins to demonstrate the killing power of ancient weapons before putting them to use in the climactic mock contest.
In the premiere, that means letting experts on Apache and Roman gladiator fighting techniques sing their respective praises, almost like ESPN analysts. Future faceoffs will include (and I swear, I’m not making this up) Pirate vs. Knight, Yakuza vs. Mafia, Maori vs. Shaolin Monks, William Wallace vs. Shaka Zulu, Ninja vs. Spartan, Green Beret vs. Spetnaz, and Taliban vs. IRA — and honestly, I can’t wait to see who the advocate for the Taliban is.
The three series “regulars” include a biomedical engineer, an ER doctor and computer expert Max Geiger, who runs the battle-simulation program. This actually yields hundreds of possible outcomes, but the producers demonstrate just one of them, based on the percentages of who would win more often.
Then again, even that degree of explanation gives “Deadliest Warrior” more thought than it probably deserves. And while I’m all for stupid, violent TV that blatantly rips off the narration in “300,” Spike has nevertheless demonstrated that it’s possible to underestimate your intended audience’s intelligence even if they really are a bunch of beer-guzzling louts.
Put another way, in the battle of Critic vs. Cynical Low-Brow TV, score this as a one-sided ass-kicking.