Deadliest Warrior Documentary Series Overview (2009-2011)


Introduction

Deadliest Warrior is a 2009 documentary series in which the great warriors of history are examined for fantasy combat simulations.

Outline

During the series information on historical or modern warriors and their weapons are used to determine which of them is the “deadliest” based upon tests performed during each episode.

The show was characterised by its use of data compiled in creating a dramatisation of the warriors’ battle to the death.

Remember, this is a Spike TV show and its inspiration comes from drunk arguments or smoke pontifications. What would happen if two different types of historical warriors who never came into contact actually get into a fight? It’s a fun idea. The audience is introduce to a minimal history lesson, a few weapons from each fighter, and a faux simulation of the fight.

Production

Development

The show was originally developed by Morningstar Entertainment, and has since moved to production company 44 Blue. The showrunner (supervising producer) in the first season was Tim Prokop. Tim Warren became the showrunner during the second season and continued with the show during its move to 44 Blue and the third season. The historical adviser in the first and second season and associate producer in the second season was Barry C. Jacobsen; who represented the Spartan Team in Season 1. He also worked with associate producer Ryo Okada on content preparation and warrior selection for the first two seasons.

Format

Episodes begin with the introduction of either two types of historical or contemporary warriors or two historical individuals. The history, culture, and general fighting philosophies of each are explained. The explanations are accompanied by segments showing actors performing dramatised scenes that are meant to depict the daily lives of the actual fighters. Two teams of experts (of either the history or martial abilities of the warriors) are brought onto the show to test weapons spotlighted as being used by each of the warriors. Typically, the different weapons are organized into four categories (and as of season 3, three categories): short range, mid range, long range, and special weapons (usually absent in season 3). However, some episodes (for instance, “Green Berets vs. Spetsnaz”) have had as many as six categories. Matt Anderson and Sonny Puzikas, the experts for the “Green Beret vs. Spetsnaz” episode, have suggested that the teams are assigned weapons by the producers and that they have little influence in the production of the acted simulations.

The teams test the assigned weapons on various targets including human silhouette targets, mannequins, pig and cattle carcasses, and ballistics gel torsos, heads, limbs, etc. Additionally, pressure mats, accelerometers, chronometers, and other measuring tools are used to test such figures as the striking force and speed of each weapon. Sometimes, the targets are covered with armour that is representative of what would be worn by the warrior’s opponent. While the damage inflicted on the armour by the weapon is factored into the weapon’s effectiveness, the defensive ability of armour is not included as a separate category on the show in the first two seasons (with the exception of Pirate vs. Knight). All of the weapon tests are recorded with high speed photography, and the results are fed into a computer that measures the damage each weapon is capable of inflicting. The producers and hosts then compare the results for each of the weapon categories and determine which weapon they feel will give its warrior an edge in that category during the simulation. However, the hosts of the show have admitted that their choice of which weapon gets the edge has no effect on the final results.

The data collected from the weapons tests is fed into a computer simulation based on an unreleased commercial game engine to determine the average winner of one thousand battles, and starting with season 3, a new system created by Pipeworks Software determines the winner based on five thousand battles. These results are then used to create a fictional battle re-enactment (between two characters or two small groups) performed by actors. After the battle dramatisation has ended, the number of killing blows (or effectiveness percentages in season 3) attained by each weapon during the computer simulations is revealed. Episodes conclude with the hosts and guests commenting on why they agree or disagree with the outcome of the match.

Hosts

In its first two seasons, the show was hosted by three commentators: Geoff Desmoulin (biomedical scientist and high speed camera operator), Armand Dorian, (medical consultant), and Max Geiger (simulations programmer). All three provided commentary throughout the show, as well as technical details of each weapons test. The show is narrated by actor David Wenham, using the pseudonym “Drew Skye”.

Release

Pilot

The pilot episode was Spartan vs Ninja. Shot in February 2008, the pilot was unique in not being staged in the “Fight Club” in Los Angeles; but instead at Bermite Properties in Santa Clarita, California. The reality scenes were directed by Tim Prokop who also wrote all of the outlines, treatments and shooting scripts. They were shot in 3 days, and the concept was one of the first to introduce high speed film techniques, visual effects, and biomechanical testing. The reality shoot – filmed with real weapons – was followed by a 3 day recreation shoot with fake weapons. This was directed by Tripp Reed (first unit) and Tim Prokop (2nd unit and VFX). The recreation script was also written by Tim Prokop. The Thermopylae and other Spartan re-enactment scenes were shot near the Hollywood sign, at Bronson Caves in the Hollywood Hills. Since the budget was tight, Prokop enlisted the help of VFX Supervisor Ron Thornton and the students at DAVE School in Orlando Florida for the pilot visual effects. DAVE stands for Digital Animation and Visual Effects. The pilot became a graduate project that launched a school tradition for broadcast graduate projects that continues to this day. When focus tested in June 2008, the episode scored the highest marks in Spike’s history; with a number that was only surpassed by the pilot Tim Prokop produced in 2009 – Crash Test. The Deadliest Warrior series was greenlit in October 2008. The pilot episode aired – with very minor changes – as the third episode in season 1.

Season 01

The first season premiered on 07 April 2009 at 10 pm ET. Nine one-hour episodes of the show were produced for season 1. Season 1 was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 11 May 2010.

The series was originally slated to air 8 weeks later but another series failed to make deadlines and showrunner Tim Prokop was asked to move it up. Despite being a mammoth production, with multiple filming units, stunts, VFX, real-world testing, computer simulations, recreations and real weapons – the series met the new deadlines. The first season of Deadliest Warrior immediately marked it as the highest rated non-sports series in Spike’s history.

Season 02

The second season had 13 episodes (14 including the special) which began airing on 20 April 2010, with the last episode airing on 27 July 2010.

Season 2 was announced by the Team and by Spike, along with a video game. A teaser image posted on Twitter shows a Ballistic Gel torso behind a podium. A teaser video was posted for Deadliest Warrior for the people who signed up for Warrior Den with some of the weapons for season 2. The weapons trailer only showed modern weapons. Season 2 premiered 20 April 2010 at 10 pm ET.

Season 03

Shortly after the season 2 finale, season 3 was announced on Spike.com, followed shortly after by a live Aftermath featuring new host Richard “Mack” Machowicz answering fan questions. On 13 October the show announced the start of production for the season. Over the course of several weeks, Spike revealed the Season 3 match ups. The battle simulator (created by host Robert Daly, who replaced Max Geiger) now simulates 5,000 battles as opposed to the previous 1,000. The new format (except for Vampires vs. Zombies) is a squad on squad battle of 5 vs. 5 (reserved only for modern matches in past seasons). An average of 100 different X-factors are now factored into each simulation, each being rated on a scale from 1 to 100 (though only a few are mentioned). Season 3 premiered on 20 July 2011 at 10 pm ET. This is the only season with no spear, punching weapon, sling, non-lethal weapon, submachine gun, flamethrower, AK-47, RPG-7, landmine, and shotgun.

The third season had 10 episodes, running from 20 July 2011 to 14 September ending with a two-episode finale. Unlike the first two seasons, which consisted primarily of one-on-one battles, every episode of season 3 had squad-on-squad fights. Geiger did not return for season 3. He was replaced by military software developer Robert Daly, who designed the new simulation programme. However, it was discovered that he was being misleading about his military service, serving in intelligence and not a combat role. Former Navy SEAL Richard “Mack” Machowicz, who analyses the history and strategy of the warriors, was added to demonstrate a warrior’s perspective among the hosts. Dave Baker, veteran weapons maker since season one, was given his own segment in which he gives background information used to recreate the show’s weapons.

Reaction

After three episodes, Deadliest Warrior averaged 1.7 million viewers. On 07 July 2009, the programme (specifically the “IRA vs. Taliban” episode) was ridiculed during the first episode of You Have Been Watching, a British television review and panel game hosted by critic Charlie Brooker. The show was featured on You Have Been Watching, before its premiere in the UK on 11 August 2009, on Bravo. Bravo only aired eight episodes in the UK, with “IRA vs Taliban” omitted.

Writing for Variety, Brian Lowry described it as “90% filler” and that “it makes a Universal Studios stunt show look like Masterpiece Theatre.”

Deadliest Warrior Series

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Michael S. Ojeda … (20 episodes, 2009-2010).
    • Kiran Gonsalves … (14 episodes, 2010).
    • Tim Prokop … (9 episodes, 2009).
    • W.D. Hogan … (9 episodes, 2011).
    • F. Paul Benz … (6 episodes, 2009).
    • Shaun Paul Piccinino … (4 episodes, 2009-2010).
    • William Martens … (1 episode, 2009).
    • Tripp Reed … (1 episode, 2009).
  • Producer(s):
    • Tim Warren … co-executive producer / executive producer (24 episodes, 2010-2011).
    • Jennifer C. Burd … post producer (23 episodes, 2009-2010).
    • Ryo Okada … producer / associate producer (23 episodes, 2009-2010).
    • Melody Shafir … series producer / senior producer (23 episodes, 2009-2010).
    • Paninee Theeranuntawat … executive producer (23 episodes, 2009-2010).
    • Sean Vawter … associate producer (23 episodes, 2009-2010).
    • Kellianne Wilder … coordinating producer (23 episodes, 2009-2010).
    • Kamia Fletcher … story associate producer (14 episodes, 2010).
    • David Scott Jones … associate producer (14 episodes, 2010).
    • Alexander J. Moon … line producer (14 episodes, 2010).
    • Anne Hill … producer: opening sequence / producer (12 episodes, 2009-2010).
    • Chris Beal … associate producer (10 episodes, 2011).
    • Mike Phillips … series producer (10 episodes, 2011).
    • Gary Benthin … series story producer / senior story producer (9 episodes, 2009).
    • Kiran Gonsalves … producer / field producer: re-enactments (9 episodes, 2009).
    • Tim Prokop … supervising producer (9 episodes, 2009).
    • Jude Gerard Prest … pre-production supervising producer (7 episodes, 2010).
    • Josh Cole … producer / field producer (6 episodes, 2010).
    • Daniel Calin … segment producer (6 episodes, 2011).
    • Charlie Parrish … producer (6 episodes, 2011).
    • Joe Perez … producer (6 episodes, 2011).
    • Eric Mazer … producer (5 episodes, 2010).
    • Joshua E. Kessler … producer (5 episodes, 2011).
    • Brittany Graham … producer (4 episodes, 2010).
    • Terry Lee … line producer (4 episodes, 2010).
    • Daniel Snyder … producer (3 episodes, 2011).
    • David Story … producer (3 episodes, 2011).
    • Danny Wayne … producer (3 episodes, 2011).
    • Todd Ludy … story producer (2 episodes, 2009).
    • William Martens … producer (2 episodes, 2009).
    • Daniel Sollinger … line producer: recreation unit (2 episodes, 2009).
    • Gary Tarpinian … executive producer (2 episodes, 2009).
    • Barry Jacobsen … associate producer (2 episodes, 2010).
    • Kristian Hansen … show producer (1 episode, 2009).
    • Joseph Maddrey … producer (1 episode, 2011).
  • Writer(s):
    • Timothy Prokop … (developed by) (33 episodes, 2009-2011).
    • Tim Prokop … (head writer) (9 episodes, 2009).
    • Tim Prokop … (written by) (9 episodes, 2009).
    • Keren Markuze … (writer) (5 episodes, 2010).
    • Brittany Graham … (4 episodes, 2010).
    • Brittany Graham … (writer) (4 episodes, 2010).
    • Daniel Snyder … (3 episodes, 2011).
    • David Story … (3 episodes, 2011).
    • Suzanne Ali … (writer) (2 episodes, 2009).
    • Lee Olson … (2 episodes, 2011).
    • Skoti Collins … (additional material) (1 episode, 2009).
    • Rebecca Graham … (written by) (1 episode, 2009).
    • Douglas Brooks West … (writer) (1 episode, 2009).
  • Music:
    • Michael Richard Plowman … (2 episodes, 2009).
  • Cinematography:
    • Jim Orr … (23 episodes, 2009-2010).
    • Bry Thomas Sanders … (10 episodes, 2011).
    • Michael Jacob Kerber … (1 episode, 2009).
    • Mark Morris … (1 episode, 2009).
    • Michael S. Ojeda … (1 episode, 2009).
  • Editor(s):
    • Jimmy Miller … (14 episodes, 2010-2011).
    • Daniel Holechek … (10 episodes, 2011).
    • Rob LiCalsi … (7 episodes, 2009-2010)
    • Dave O’Brien … (5 episodes, 2010).
    • Simeon Soffer … (5 episodes, 2011).
    • Duncan Sinclair … (4 episodes, 2009-2011).
    • Chris Wright … (4 episodes, 2011).
    • Greg Burge … (3 episodes, 2009).
    • Robyn T. Migel … (3 episodes, 2010).
    • Jeff Schiro … (2 episodes, 2009).
    • Tom Ronca … (2 episodes, 2010).
    • Michael Thau … (2 episodes, 2010).
    • Ramsey Denison … (1 episode, 2009).
    • Steve Hall … (1 episode, 2009).
    • Matthew Kregor … (1 episode, 2009).
    • Michael Levine … (1 episode, 2009).
    • Gary Reid … (1 episode, 2009).
    • Dave Palmero … (1 episode, 2011).
    • Elise Pearlstein … (unknown episodes).
  • Production:
    • 44 Blue Productions.
    • Morningstar Entertainment.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Spike (2009) (USA) (TV).
  • Release Date:
    • Series 01: 07 April 2009 to 31 May 2009.
    • Series 02: 20 April 2010 to 27 July 2010.
    • Series 03: 20 July 2011 to 14 September 2011.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Running Time: 42 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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