(Celebrating 12 seasons of two faceless dudes fighting in a warehouse. PicProps: MMAOutsider.com)
Of all the things that consistently suck about “The Ultimate Fighter” – the repetitive plotlines, relentless douchebaggery of much of the cast and what feels at times like a conscious desire on the part of the editors to make everybody involved look as bad as possible, just to name a few — by far the most frustrating remains the show’s continuing unwillingness to reinvent itself. Aside from a couple of minor tweaks over its 12 seasons – one of which was, uh, this guy – fans have consistently been watching the same shit over and over again for the past five years. To say that the format has grown stale would be an understatement of Jake Shields-ian proportions.
That the show’s average viewership hasn’t dropped any lower than the approximate 1.5 million who currently tune in each week is certainly more of a testament to the loyalty of MMA fans than a reflection of quality programming. Even most of the people who (like me) still watch religiously admit that a lot of it is pretty god-awful. But to understand exactly why “TUF” insists on plodding forward from season to season with the mindless tenacity of a reanimated corpse, look no further than SpikeTV senior vice president Brian Diamond’s recent interview with MMA Junkie.
According to Diamond, “TUF” ain’t broken and he responds to the suggestion that maybe the show needs a facelift (actually, a complete body tuck would be better) by making some comparisons that are … well … totally fucking insane.
"That would be like saying, I’m not going to watch the Daytona 500 because it’s the same race ever year …,” Diamond says when confronted with the notion that ‘TUF’ may have ‘run its course.’ “(The) Super Bowl. (The) World Series. The designated hitter was the last real big thing that entered baseball years ago. We always challenge ourselves to try and come up with something interesting and different, but we don’t want to do anything contrived. We don’t want to make it feel unorganic to the process."
OK, wow. A bunch of things about that …
Oviously, it goes without saying that likening the UFC/SpikeTV joint venture into reality television to several of America’s most beloved and historic sporting traditions is, like, the craziest thing anyone in the world has ever said. Ever. Further, to imply that major sports leagues like the NFL and MLB aren’t constantly altering their products in the hope of attracting more viewers just isn’t true. Specifically, the NFL is regarded as the standard bearer for shaping and reshaping pretty much every aspect of its game to make it more fan (and TV) friendly. Even though baseball is far stodgier, MLB has taken similar steps, most visibly adding a wild card during the mid 1990s in the hopes of bringing its postseason to a wider audience. Weird that Diamond would forget that, since “TUF” just did the same thing last season.
Also, gotta call utter bullshit on any claim that “TUF” doesn’t “want to do anything contrived” and doesn’t want to make its broadcast “feel unorganic.” You know, besides imposing a team concept on an individual sport and then basically making its living off taking a bunch of testosterone-charged “alpha males” and injecting them into a million-dollar mansion where their only source of entertainment is free booze provided by the show. Nothing contrived about that, right?
"We challenge ourselves," Diamond says of ‘TUF’ trying to add new wrinkles. "The fights to get into the house, adding the wild card, trying to find a unique combination of coaches – whether it’s Tito (Ortiz) and Chuck (Liddell), Rashad (Evans) and ‘Rampage’ (Jackson) – or when Kimbo Slice came into the mix, those are things that we try to challenge ourselves on. But the reality is, people are still watching it.”
Give him credit here, “TUF” did indeed add the wild card recently. Of course, after just one season it totally undermined the wild card’s usefulness by giving it to the castmember who least deserved it this time around. Not to mention, even coupled with the rest of the “challenges” listed above the wild card can only be considered a Band Aid on the much bigger problem: That “TUF” only has three or four stock episode templates that just keep repeating over and over again with new contestants and coaches cast in familiar roles.
To try to pretend that “TUF” doesn’t need a complete overhaul because “people are still watching” is, in my opinion, ludicrous. But now I guess we know how “Blue Mountain State” got renewed for a second season.