Monday, March 07, 2005

THE CONTENDER STARTS TONIGHT

Well, The Contender starts tonight and all I will say about it is I hope this is as good as people say it is, because I don't know if I can take one more bad reality TV show.

It has a familiar Mark Burnett formula: two teams that live together and engage in challenges with the other team, all to determine who gets to fight whom in a duel-to-the-death deathmatch. Loser is eliminated.

From the sounds of it it is really edge-of-your-seat type stuff, and I plan to tune in to see what it's about. I hope the boxing is good. Needless to say, the sport of boxing has had its share of problems over the years and if this is a way to get that sport back on its feet, then good. But let me say this: they are sugarcoating this sport if only Sly Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard are part of this Contender show. If you want a reality show about boxing, it's got to have DON KING in it, because King owns the world. Enough said.

The other promising thing is that these guys are middleweights, so hopefully we'll see some really good boxing. I don't know who any of these guys are, but I expect people will tune in to see Najai Turpin. He's that guy who appeared on the Contender, and shortly afterwards he committed suicide. Really a sad sad story. People are going to tune in just to see him, unfortunately.

Anyway, on to the question of how this show will do. I don't know. It sounds like this will be a better reality show than most of the garbage out there. Last night the WB premiered the really contrived The Starlet, a show where they give some acting job to an actress. Seems like another American Idol/America's Next Top Model clone to me, with the usual catfighting and people living together and getting on each other's nerves. Instead of having a reality show about actresses hoping to be on a show on the WB, why don't they simply pick the cast and give them a real show already and save the audience the agony of watching yet another crappy reality show?

Anyway, it's about time they had a reality show about casting a starlet on the WB. That was the only area not yet done to death by reality TV. We've had the castaway shows and the makeover shows and the auditioning shows and the people-kooped-up-in-a-house shows, and the dating shows and the I-need-a-soulmate shows, and Amish in the City and Paris Hilton in the country, and Paris Hilton working as an intern, and... really, this genre has covered pretty much all the ground it was going to cover. We've even had the reality spoof shows like My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss and even Joe Millionaire. This genre has had it. Get these people off the air and put some situation comedies back on. Put some more cop shows back on, darnit! Sadly, we're probably going to get the Desperate Housewives clone shows next, mark my words people.

I don't know about you but I fear that The Contender stands a solid chance of being Mark Burnett's first big-time total flop. He's had flops before (The Casino), but those shows were never as hyped-up as this and none had so much effort apparently put into it. I really feel this show is a huge risk for NBC. I think this show is going to only appeal to a niche audience of boxing fans, at best. They're the only ones still interested in the sport. Boxing is in deep decline, the people in charge of the sport have run it into the ground. And frankly, if I were a boxing fan I'd be more interested in tuning into HBO on Saturdays for real fights. Boxing fans may not be impressed by seeing their beloved sport reduced to reality TV fodder.

I know that there's advance praise for this show and it sounds like it will probably be the finest-produced reality TV show out there today, even better than The Amazing Race (which sold itself right out by making Amber and Rob contestants). But critical praise did nothing for Arrested Development either. Keep in mind, Reality TV has been done to death. Everyone thinks this genre is littered with trash. People are tired of watching trash TV already, and if they think: "The Contender, oh, reality TV again," then they probably will tune out. That's how bad a reputation reality TV has these days. If they see two teams doing these goofy challenges again they will not be impressed. But again, these same people made a hit out of Fear Factor.

NBC is also giving this show no scheduling help at all. They are putting this show on against 24, and CSI Miami, pretty tough opposition. Another problem is that Monday is a big night for the WWE and all the wrestling fans will be glued to their sets. That's another group of people who might be interested in boxing who won't watch. So this show is in trouble already, folks. What a terrible time slot. They may need to move this show to another night or they are going to get KILLED.

Having said that, I will tune in tonight and see if it lives up to the advance praise. If this show proves to be as compelling as people say it will be, then maybe it will defy the odds and make it as a series. It's just that it is fighting long odds. This show needs to be great just to stay on the air.

UPDATE: Looks as if the timeslot for the Contender tonight is for one night only: I read that it now moves to its regular time period, Wednesday nights at 8PM on NBC. Sounds better, at least they won't be up against the WWE.

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