By DERRIK J. LANG
AP Entertainment Writer
LOS ANGELES — Inside the downtown warehouse where the second season of ‘Deadliest Warrior‘ is in production, an impaled ballistics gel dummy – complete with phony blood-filled organs – slowly slides down a towering wooden stake.
The grisly snaillike movement, almost invisible to the human eye, is meticulously captured by a super-fast high-speed camera.
“This is the most gruesome thing I’ve seen on the show,” says Dr. Armand Dorian, an emergency room doctor who serves as the show’s medical expert. “It’s a 9-foot pole going through someone’s rectum all the way out through their clavicle. That’s pretty bad. Having said that, I have seen similar impalements in real life. Nothing purposely done, of course.”
It’s just another gory day on the set of Spike TV’s popular hypothetical fighting show, which mixes science, history, fantasy and gore to hypothesize the results of make-believe matchups between real-life combatants. On one rainy winter day last month, gnarly Romanian warlord Vlad the Impaler and meticulous Chinese general Sun Tzu were on the fight roster.
While the show’s science and technology may be complicated, the premise is absurdly simple: Who would reign in a fight between, for example, a pirate and a knight? The real winner seems to be Spike. The first season averaged an admirable 1.8 million viewers and was the testosterone-laden cable network’s best-selling series on downloadable platforms last year.
“You’ve got gadgets, tidbits of history and medicine, and you’ve got carnage,” says Geoffrey Desmoulin, the show’s resident biomedical engineer who also holds a black belt in karate. “I think the reason it’s so successful is that it keeps your regular Spike viewer engaged, but it’s also bringing in people from Discovery, ESPN and other channels.”
With a surprising triumph of a first season, Spike moved faster than Vlad’s preferred method of execution to extend the series beyond its made-for-TV concept, spinning it off into the online round-table show ‘Deadliest Warrior: The Aftermath’ and later launching the ‘Deadliest Warrior: Defend and Conquer’ tower defense game for the iPhone.
“With the success of the ‘Deadliest Warrior’ broadcast and also ‘Aftermath’ online, we all looked at each other and said this is a real franchise,” says Sharon Levy, Spike’s senior vice president of original series. “We really muscled the entire force of Viacom behind it. This is truly the first franchise for Spike that is now living on many platforms.”
The almost instantaneous franchise, which also includes blood-splattered ‘Deadliest Warrior’ apparel available at Hot Topic, will soon add “Deadliest Warrior: The Game” to the ranks. The violent “Mortal Kombat”-style downloadable brawler for the Xbox 360 allows gamers to create their own battles with a selection of ancient warriors featured on the show.
“The goal of this game is for fans to discover who is deadliest for themselves,” says senior game producer Prithvi Virasinghe. “We felt making a game that stays true to the show, using both the science we uncovered on the show and the fighters to recreate moves in the game, will give the fans the ultimate platform to really find out who is deadliest.”
The second season premiere episode, which pits the United States’ SWAT force against Germany’s GSG-9 squad, is not expected until April 20. In the meantime, the network appeased fans’ appetite for destruction by unveiling two second-season matches – Atilla the Hun vs. Alexander the Great and Nazi SS vs. Viet Cong – to the “Warriors’ Den,” the official online fan group.
The other familiar and not-so-famous assailants battling in the second season include Aztec Jaguar vs. Zande Warrior, Jesse James Gang vs. Al Capone Gang, Persian Immortal vs. Celt, Roman Centurion vs. India’s Rajput Warrior, Somali Pirate vs. Medellin Cartel, KGB vs. CIA, Ming Warrior vs. Musketeer, Comanche vs. Mongol and Navy Seal vs. Israeli Commando.
“This year, it’s not so much the Spartan vs. ninja,” says Desmoulin. “Everyone knows a ninja. Everyone knows the Spartans. We’re getting a little more eclectic on some of our matchups, but there’s always a common face. If there’s one guy you maybe haven’t seen before, there’s always one guy that you have, so I think that will still be the draw.”
If the puddles of fake blood and phony limbs scattered across the warehouse floor are any indication, the second season of ‘Deadliest Warrior’ will be much more savage than the first. The team is already mulling possible matches for the inevitable third season. Desmoulin has been campaigning for a particularly bold class of fighter: female warriors.
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