Tuesday, March 08, 2005
NBC's The Contender is a winner
Maybe it's because I watched "Rocky" on AMC before switching over to NBC, but I really enjoyed Mark Burnett's latest brain child: The Contender. The show is a winner because of the human interest angle used in devling into the lives of its professional boxing contestants. More so than Survivor or The Apprentice, we get to see the hopes, dreams, agony and defeat of these legitimate boxers and their families.
Don't compare this show to that hastily-produced peice of crap that Fox put out last year. That show was quickly ushered to Fox Sports Net after it died on regular network TV. Paula Abdul could probably host this show and not screw it up because Burnett's production value on this show is that good. As it is, the show is hosted by Sly Stallone, Sugar Ray Leonard and a pair of boxing insiders whose names escape me at the moment.
In the first installment, we see the guys move into a house/training center and work out. They split into two teams and decide who should box from each team. We saw a Mexican underdog named Alfonso Gomez upset Peter Manfredo Jr. (a legit 21-0 as a pro) and dash the aspirations of Manfredo and his whole family. Now that is real drama.
Not since CBS' The Amazing Race have we seen a reality show that actually has some real drama attached to it because of the intense competition. The boxers are real, the matches count on their records and their lives are real.
I covered a few boxing matches during my short-lived TV News career. It was always amazing to me what kind of people are attracted to boxing matches, no matter how small. I shot a few collegiate matches up on the mat at various Reno, Nevada casinos - and as a matter of fact, one of the kids on The Contender is a graduate from the University of Nevada (at Reno). The crowds were always filled with buxom young ladies in evening gowns, big guys with slicked hair, sports coats and gold chains, shady characters with 5 o'clock shadows and cigarettes, boxing scouts and any number of fans with a drink in-hand. These were college matches, and they still attracted a fair number of groupies, goons and gangstas. I can't wait to see the crowds for the Las Vegas matches featured on The Contender.
Tune in for yourself. The show is worth your time, trust me.