Ambassadors episode 2 review

The Contender season one review, NBC boxing

Published by jamdog on 2nd June, 2005.

 The Contender season one review

The Contender season one


In a nutshell: Two men enter – one man leaves. Then the other guy does a bit later.

The 411: It’s no secret that Muhammad Ali can barely pour his Rice Krispies and milk without flooding the kitchen – the ridiculous turd. What does it say about a sport that its greatest exponent has been so tragically monged up as a direct consequence of his participation in it?

"Muhammad Ali can barely pour his Rice Krispies and milk without flooding the kitchen."

I guess it says that these guys aren’t pissing about. Boxing is a sport of extremes – corrupt, brutal and morally inane. With qualifications like this it’s a wonder The Contender didn’t happen before. Reality TV was made for this kind of thing.

The brainchild of Mark Burnett ("The Apprentice," "Survivor"), the show houses 16 top ranked middleweights together, two of whom fight each week – a five round professional bout that goes on their official record. The winner progresses to the final stages, the loser takes the lonely walk out of The Contender house. The final two will fight at Caesars Palace for a $1 million purse – the stakes are that high.

They’re guided through the process by boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard and boxing bell-end Sylvester Stallone. Some priceless unintentional comedy is provided by Stallone going around giving these seasoned professionals advice on boxing. Even though he doesn’t know shit about boxing. He played a boxer who didn’t know shit about boxing, whose ability to shout "Adriaaaaaaaan!!" at Francis Ford Coppola‘s sister made him a cinematic turd of Olympian proportions.

Enough about the "why?" of Sly. You get to see the fighters at their best and their worse. A couple of exceptions aside, it’s difficult to dislike these guys. They all seem to be loyal, blue-collar sorts, fighting for their families, hot girlfirends and angelic kids. Barely an episode goes by without an "AH LUV YOU DADDEEEEEE!!!" or "you kick that spic’s ass inside the ring paw!" and other sweet nothings those kids just love to mutter.

"George Foreman pops in to offer the benefit of his vast experience and promote his ‘Lean Mean Grilling Machine’ as a possible cure for cancer."

George Foreman pops in to offer the benefit of his vast experience and promote his Lean Mean Grilling Machine as a possible cure for cancer. The words ‘affable’ and ‘avuncular’ could have been invented for Big George but his legendary inability to call anything right about a boxing match is all too apparent. Not that it matters – the fighters are too star-struck to care. It may be hard to believe that Foreman has even stepped inside a ring, never mind been a cast-iron Hall of Famer but as Michael Moorer and Joe Frazier will attest, when you can bang like George you don’t need to know what you’re talking about.

There’s real tension in The Contender. Some of these men genuinely dislike each other and they’re putting their whole careers at stake – there’s no interview with Davina or part-time job presenting on The Fantasy Channel waiting for Punchy O’Toole and his chums. Just a pound, a bear hug and a slip that says "You got Turded Up Beyond All Recognition". That’s cold.

It’s getting some historically bad viewing figures but that shouldn’t put you off – this is a very fine show. Boxing may not fit as snugly into the mainstream as it used to but there’s still no sport like it. Those eternal themes of noble combat, superhuman courage and, let’s not lie, senseless violence will see it endure.

The best thing about it: It really matters to the contestants.

The worst thing about it: Stallone turding around like he’s somehow relevant.

The verdict on The Contender: Comfortable points victory.

Marks out of 10: 8

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