Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Contender - Reality Done Right

Wassup, Y'all!

I'll admit I'm hooked on some of these reality shows. Y'all have seen a couple posts related to the Apprentice and Survivor (I even sank so low as to peep VH1's Surreal World when they had "the world's greatest hype man" Flava Flav bunking with Sly Stallone's old girl Brigitte Nielsen - Brigitte is a wild girl, y'all) and even that great white hype show The Bachelor/Bachelorette (which I'm boycotting until they can figure out how to get a brother or sister on) where it seems there's not a minority on the planet looking for love. Recently, I've been checking out the latest Mark Burnett offering The Contender and of all the competition reality shows, I'm feeling this one - Burnett with capable assists from Sly Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard finally got it right...

Flav & Brigitte
How Can You Not Watch
These Two In A Hot Tub??

The trend I favor is what I call the Robin Hood Principle, which is, take from the rich and give to deserving. That's why I appreciated Oprah's car give away since it targeted an audience full of folks who needed new cars as opposed to that "My Favorite Things" greed-fest (although I wouldn't complain if my butt ended up in the audience the day that joint taped...). Extreme Home Makeover - same deal. Find a needy family and hook their a** up big time. Lately the latest installments of these reality shows have featured contestant who've obviously watched the shows, heard the reaction and are now playing for the camera and the publicity as they perform in an artificial competition. This is where The Contender diverges from the beaten path. Sure it has it's manufactured moments - dopey competitions to determine who gets the honor of calling out who to fight, but the main focus is to gather a group of actual boxers and have them fight against each other in the ring to determine who'll get to fight the premier fight in Las Vegas for a $1 million dollar purse.

For the most part these guys are club fighters, on the outside looking in trying to get to a big payday in their chosen profession. They come from humble backgrounds, for the most part, and fighting is pretty much all they know. Just like with Extreme Home Makeover - some of their family stories will even make a thug drop a tear and in some cases as two of them prepare for a fight where the loser is headed home, you really want them both to win (in a few cases though there's a clear buster you want to see get dropped). Because of their personal situations and their desire to prove themselves and not disappoint their families, when they lose these boys take it hard and you pretty much see a grown man cry every week. It's heartbreaking, y'all - but it's real, like life. To show how real, one of the boxers, Naijai Turpin, a young brother from Philly, put his all into his fight, but came up short. The brother was devastated and five weeks after he taped his segment, he committed suicide. It doesn't get anymore real than that, y'all. And because these boys see this competition as their ticket out, the five round bouts are straight up slugfests - boxing the way boxing is supposed to be. Not that heavyweight mess with all that clinching and leaning going on for twelve rounds.

Anyway - never thought I'd get hooked on a show that didn't feature either non-stop explosions, 'Oh Snap' gadgets or a bevy of bikini-clad shortys but I did on this one. As I said - it's reality done right. Give it a peep if your rotation is starting to get stale with the same ol, same ol.



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