AKA – Where Have All the Anvils Gone?
First thing that needs to be stated: I am not a Sword Guy. I have never bought a sword. I never intend to buy any swords. Let’s be clear about this. My mother’s husband bought me a Three Musketeers replica sword because he thought some Game of Thrones replica swords that my former roommate owned were mine. But they weren’t. So that is the only blade of significant length in my apartment.
Okay, I can already feel my wife reading this and reminding me I have a machete. But that was a gift, too. And it sits in the corner in case I ever have people over again and am drunk enough to fill a lull in the conversation with, “Want to see my machete?” So that doesn’t count and it’s not a sword, hun.
Wait! Come back!
Outside of those, I think the only swords I’ve seen in real life that weren’t meant to look like something from a Zelda game were on the walls of a steakhouse. I just want to make sure you understand that I am not the target audience for a show like Forged in Fire.
But, yo…this is a show where they make people spend most of a day creating a knife under extreme conditions, then do their best to break the fuck out of them and then tell people whose knives they break to kick rocks. That is INSANE.
“Please, use all of the skills you have acquired over the years to make us a properly functioning blade. And then we will promptly make you watch while we destroy it and criticize you…albeit politely.”
And then those people they send home are like, “I completely agree with the judges. I failed you all.” Dude…what?!
It seriously took me watching half a season of this show to figure out if it was a parody or not. But by that point, I was pretty hooked.
For the uninitiated, this History Channel show with the highest rate of kilts per capita is in the vein of Chopped, where four people have to make something and people are eliminated after each round. But instead of you screaming at the screen for them to not use the ice cream maker, you are worried about anyone who has to dip their knife in oil more than once. (Trust me, it makes sense when you’ve seen it.) Once they get through two rounds of blade making, they “test” the blades and the two that survive the most intact are sent home for five days to work on making a version of a historical weapon in their home forges. Which is usually like their garage and somehow I have only witnessed one major fire in the episodes I’ve seen.
They run a warning at the beginning of each show about how dangerous doing this stuff can be, but they can’t say “don’t do this at home” because they literally make two people do that in every episode. So stuff like this happens:
In the city of Cohoes, New York near Albany, a man, inspired by the series, tried to forge a piece of metal over a fire in a barrel near his home. He caused a fire that destroyed three residential buildings and damaged 28 others.– Wikipedia throwing shade by putting this in the “Influence” section
Let’s talk about the hosts real quick.
- The Knife Maker Dudes – Depending on which season you are watching you will either get J. Nielson or Ben Abbott. These dude make swords and knives and shit. Ben is a former winner of the show and seems relatively normal except I can’t really put a finger on his accent. He’s referred to himself as British, but my ear which is finely tuned to the intricacies of the Philadelphia area accent still can’t quite determine where exactly. J. Nielson looks like your high school bio teacher, but he gets real amped to smash a knife blade on a whiskey barrel while the person who made it watches sadly from across the room.
- The Weapons Recreation Specialist – David Baker. He is well groomed and gets excited whenever a blacksmith shows up with a beard. Which is like every episode. He makes weapons for movies. I would love to chat with him about why I go to comic conventions and prop sales people always try to sell you shit that looks NOTHING like the weapon from the movie it is alleged to be. “This is the whip from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!” Bro, that’s a rusty bike chain.
- The Weapons Specialist – Doug Marcaida. Ummm…I’m pretty sure this dude is paid by the military to train special forces members how to kill people. So I’m not gonna fuck with him. But he is absolutely the funniest part of the show. Every contestant on this show gets turgid as fuck for him to confirm that the weapon they make will kill someone.
When the two bladesmiths bring back the historical weapon they worked on at home return to the set, they let this dude go to fucking town on ballistic dummies or animal carcasses, which is next level bonkers. If you are just flipping channels and then you see this dude “centering” himself and then rip into a dead pig hanging from a hook to make sure the sword someone made has sword like qualities, it could be a bit…disturbing. This is only the second most off-putting part of the show for my wife.
The first is the host Wil Willis. Outside of the fact that his parents named him that, there is nothing wrong with him. But he has to yell on the set because it is, I imagine, both extremely hot and loud in a room where four people are just setting metal on fire and beating the shit out of it to get into some shape. She calls him Tom Cruise, which is an insult from her because she hates how many of his movies I’ve watched in front of her. He’s fine, but she is convinced that he is wearing knockoff Converse, so she is not a fan. (Sorry, Wil. I tried.)
If I had to guess, I would say the most expensive part of this show’s budget is travel expenses. I think they bring people into New York to shoot for a day and then probably fly them back out the same damn night. Then they have to bring two people back a little while later to destroy the work they’ve done. I also want to believe that those contestants have to ask an airline if they can bring their traditional African bladed staff as their carry-on.
Here’s the thing though…the absolute weapons grade level of positivity on the set is incredible. I’m still trying to figure out if it is somehow scripted or just really played up with editing, but I have never watched a competition show where the contestants are supportive of each other and say such nice things. They will just absolutely botch their final weapon at home by thinking it’s a good idea to smack it against a tree stump with no time left, only to have it shatter in a dozen pieces and be like, “Well, I better start over because I don’t want to let down the other smith.” They are cordial to each other and the hosts, no matter how bad it gets. And right now, I need that way more then a bunch of dumbfucks talking to a camera about how their opponents “didn’t come to play” when it comes to…arranging cones or some shit? I don’t know, I can’t watch Big Brother the way some people do. You know what I’m talking about, right?
My biggest complaint about Forged in Fire is that it is A LOT of white dudes. Those white dudes vary from 70-year-old veterans who started smithing to keep themselves busy to some teenager who scoffs at using power tools because he is trained in a “more traditional Japanese style.” *insert jerk off emoji here* Whatever, you fucking nerd. You’re from Idaho. But still…mostly white dudes. I imagine that is the demographic that makes up most of the people who do this type of stuff, but I would like them to confirm that to my face.
And that’s where I ask you, loyal readers, to help me out. Send out word to every publication and website you think that could afford to send me to “The Forge” when filming begins again to hang out for a few days and find out what it is really like on the set of Forged in Fire. I don’t have a lot going for me right now, but BOY HOWDY would I love to give everyone a candid, in-depth look on what it is like to watch four people work their asses off to make something they love and watch as some dude smiles at them while he takes a hammer and slams it blade first into a fucking tool box. And then be like, “Thank you for ruining my reputation in this industry. NEVER GIVE UP!”
I encourage you to watch a few episodes if you haven’t. There are a few seasons up on Hulu. Give them a watch and count how many time you laugh aloud when they say the word “tang.” You are going to average about 15 an episode. And then help me help you solve all of the mysteries that form in your brain in figuring out how this show exists and what the fuck is happening at any given time.