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From: San Jose, CA
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|#1 Posted on 21.2.05 1622.20 |
Reposted on: 21.2.12 1622.50
| UFC's new reality show "The Ultimate |
Fighter" represents a strong attempt by
UFC to poach fans of pro wrestling to
build their own audience, though not
in the way that many are reporting.
The show takes sixteen fighters, eight
middleweights and eight light-heavies,
and divides them into two teams under
coaches Randy Couture and Chuck Lidell.
Fighters eventually face each other in
the UFC "Octagon" ring and the losers
are eliminated. The last fighter in each
weight class receives a UFC contract.
Fans of the reality genre will quickly
recognize cliched techniques as old as
"Survivor" or even "The Real World",
such as sweeping boom shots of the
exterior of "the house" to introduce
sequences filmed inside the residence
shared by both teams during the show.
This week's episode of "The Ultimate
Fighter" began with a recap of the
fight from the previous episode and
a series of quick clips to establish
that the fighters were sick of being
cooped up in the house after three
weeks with no television or contact
with the outside world. Apparently
the producer was reading "The Man
Without A Country" while planning
Unfortunately those quick clips also
suggested that many of the fighters
were uncharismatic and inarticulate.
In fact several were so bad they could
find employment in the modern WWE.
Between the quick clips establishing
the plot of the episode, there were some
superficial clips of weight training by
team Lidell. Those clips added a little
UFC flavor to a show that otherwise
could have been mistaken for MTV's
"Real World" without any females.
Another training clip showed team
Couture sparring in the octagon. One
of the fighters accidently injured his
ankle when two other fighters rolled
into his leg from behind, but this was
not treated as a significant plot point
since there was no discussion of that
fighter being dropped from the show.
UFC President Dana White showed up
at the house to tell the fighters that
he was going to take them out to the
Hard Rock Cafe. In an interview clip,
White said he was going to take them
out and let them have a few drinks.
White added, "Hopefully these guys do
the right thing and they'll have another
opportunity to go out another night."
The show took a disturbing turn as the
fighters got ready for their night out.
They showed clips of the boys ironing
their clothes and grooming each other
over a soundtrack from a porn movie.
Chris Leben teased one of the other
fighters about wearing low cut jeans,
even flipping up the back of his shirt.
Chris Leben was the closest thing to a
"character" in the early part of the show.
He mumbled and has very little charisma
beyond dying his hair blood red, but that
was enough to stand out in this dull crowd.
Josh Koscheck cut off Chris and ripped
him with a couple of insults. Chris had
no reply. Koscheck may seem familiar to
eighties wrestling fans. He has a blond
"fro" like Ken Patera, but his fun loving,
indifferent attitude is more reminiscent
of "The Magnificent One" Don Muraco.
Many of the fighters were drinking beer
prior to leaving the house, so apparently
suds are an integral part of UFC training.
Maybe the losers will qualify for Spike's
next reality series, "The Ultimate Sumo."
Dana White arrived with a tricked out
airport shuttle bus to pick up the boys.
White observed "they've been training
hard, they haven't seen girls, uh, it's
getting rough. It's starting to wear on
them now. My worry is these guys
haven't been out in a long time. I just
don't want these guys getting too drunk",
which begged the question of whose
decision it was to provide them with
plenty of alcohol before they went out.
The night out provided a much needed
opportunity for two more reality series
staples, glamour footage of the locale
with shots of the cast walking around
and product placement for the place
where they ended up eating dinner.
Given Dana White's earlier observation
about the paucity of women in the house,
one might expect he took the boys to a
stripper bar, or at least to a club where
there would be actual women, but no,
he took them to a private banquet room
in a restaurant. I sense sinister forces
at work in the staging of this series.
One of the fighters, Diego, came home
so drunk that he had to be dragged into
the house and put to bed, where he began
to have semi-conscious hallucinations.
Most of the other fighters continued to
drink until they ran out of alcohol in the
house, then things started to get ugly.
Bobby Southworth, who could pass for
Tiny Lister's son, was trying to discuss
Diego's plight while the other fighters
relaxed around the pool with their shirts
off. Chris Leben said "it doesn't matter
to me" which set off a confrontation with
Southworth. Bobby called Chris a
"fatherless bastard", apparently the
worst possible insult in a sport that
was popularized by the Gracie family.
Bobby tried to apologize later, but
Chris, milking the situation for all
the sympathy he could get despite
earlier peeing in another fighter's
bed, hit himself in the head with
a beer bottle, but it didn't break.
Toscheck grinned in the background.
Chris, whose father did leave him
when he was very young, broke down
by the pool. While the insult did hit
home, Chris probably wouldn't have
reacted so strongly if he hadn't been
drunk. Again one had to question the
responsibility of Dana White and the
producers for providing too much
alcohol to a group of younger men.
Nathan Quarry, an older fighter,
played camp counselor and tried
to comfort Chris. Toscheck told
Nathan "give him a hug", which
might be considered breaking
kayfabe on an episode like this.
Later, when they were alone outside
the house, Nathan did give Chris a
hug, putting his arm around him from
behind and resting his chin on Chris'
chest. At that point I began to wonder
I wonder if boys without fathers are
like girls without fathers, an easy
mark for an older man.
Chris didn't want to sleep inside the
house, so the boys brought him a
sleeping bag and he went to sleep
on the front lawn. Southworth and
Toscheck couldn't sleep and they
got bored with tossing furniture into
the pool, so they snuck around to
the yard with a camera crew and
grabbed a nearby garden hose.
Toscheck watered the grass around
Chris, then "got carried away" and
ran the hose over the sleeping bag.
Chris woke up and angrily stumbled
back into the house. In his drunken
stupor he punched the glass window
in the front door, ripping the skin
off one of his knuckles. He then
wandered through the house and
attacked a bedroom door, punching
holes in it and then tearing it down.
Luckily the producer planned ahead
and rented a house with cheap doors.
Chris squared up with Southworth,
but Nathan limped to the rescue and
took Chris outside for more consoling.
Koscheck and Southworth couldn't
keep a straight face, pointing out that
the damage was all self-inflicted.
Back in the eighties during the feud
between Snuka and Muraco, Snuka
complained to Kal Rudman about
remarks Muraco had made about his
mother. Rudman confronted Muraco,
asking "Did you say what Jimmy said
you said about his mother?" Muraco,
smirking, replied "I don't know?
I didn't hear what Jimmy said."
That scene sums up Josh Koscheck.
He plays dumb with a knowing smirk.
Chris went to the hospital for x-rays.
The rest of the fighters debated who
was to blame, pointing out that Chris
had been an asshole all along as the
producer inserted a clip of Chris
peeing in another fighter's bed in an
earlier episode. Josh, Bobby, and
others tried to clean up the blood.
The next day Dana White met with
Lidell and Couture at the office and
they decided to bring the fighters
in to discuss the situation. Nathan
Quarry showed up to defend Chris,
saying "If Chris is told to go,
I'm going to go with him."
No one could remember what had
started the altercation. In fact it was
when Chris expressed indifference
to Diego's situation. Nathan claimed
Chris was in the right the entire time.
I guess Nathan's camp counselor
instincts didn't extend to Diego.
Southworth couldn't remember Chris'
comment either, explaining "I was
drunk" and "it was bad timing."
Dana White bought that explanation.
Lidell and Couture again pointed out
that Chris had pissed in someone
else's bed and said "he can dish it
out but he can't take it." Analysts
calling this episode a "double turn"
apparently missed the point that
everyone in management and many
of the other fighters painted Chris
as someone who couldn't take the
stuff that he dished out to others.
Dana White eventually decided to
take JDW's advice and watch the
videotape of the previous evening.
White didn't realize that this is a
violation of one of the core tenets
of reality television.
Reality shows may still seem like
a new genre, but they are patterned
after a very old genre, the novel.
Viewers have omniscient insight
into the motives of the characters.
This is only plausible because the
characters know that others on the
show don't have real time access
to these honest insights, the same
way characters in a novel wouldn't
be expected to run out and buy the
novel to learn each other's secrets.
Dana White and the two coaches are
characters in the show. They can't
exist on camera and also be able to
watch what the camera is taping or
no one on the show can be honest
about them and we lose omniscience.
The whole reality model falls apart.
Nevertheless, White and his coaches
watched the video. They missed the
point that it was Chris' indifference
about Diego that set off Bobby. They
also didn't mention Chris trying to
harm himself with the beer bottle,
which was important since the injuries
he later suffered were self-inflicted.
He basically escalated the violence
to make himself appear more wronged.
Dana White pulled out the Kip Allen
Frey spot, dragging in UFC co-owner
Lorenzo Fertitta to make the decision.
Fertitta decided "no alcohol", which
seemed like an obvious policy even
before the altercation took place since
these guys are supposedly in training.
Dana White was dissatisfied, asking
"that's it?" He wanted the coaches to
come up with something. Eventually
they realized they can simply match up
Josh and Chris in a elimination fight.
"This is a fight show", said White,
something many viewers were probably
saying at least five minutes earlier.
Couture told Chris the fight was on.
"I'm going to get my redemption",
said Chris. "I'm going to be able
to get Josh back. I'm gonna be able
to crush his skull in, and not go to
jail for it."
I'd love to see the reaction of UFC
co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta to Chrisí
last comment, given the difficulties
UFC has had trying to convince the
government that they are a legitimate
sport rather than a form of barbarism.
My overall impression of this show
was somewhere between cliche and
car wreck. The contestants are dull
and colorless. They lucked into a bit
of an angle between Chris and Josh,
but the result will eliminate one of
the show's strongest personalities.
The team captains are being used
effectively to promote their own
upcoming fight, but otherwise the
concept of having teams is not being
used effectively, such as contrasting
the training methods or the fighting
approaches of the two groups. The
training segments were superficial
music video backgrounds and there
was no discussion of fighting tactics.
But the show isn't a complete loss.
UFC may have finally found a way to
appeal to a segment of the traditional
pro wrestling fanbase. Unfortunately
after Chris or Josh is eliminated, all
they will have left is blue boy shots of
young boys sitting around the pool to
draw that "men over 40" demographic.
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