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TV Series Review

Reality shows such as Big Brother and The Real World cram people into a house and hope they'll start sparring. That's the premise behind The Ultimate Fighter, too, but with the smackdowns guaranteed.

The Ultimate Fighter begins its sixth season this month on Spike. It is essentially a serialized infomercial for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the hottest combat sport organization in the country. The show takes 16 wannabe UFC athletes, divides them into teams and has the men fight each other for team pride and individual glory. The last man standing each season receives a six-figure UFC contract. Meanwhile, the contestants share a house where they all live, eat and party together before beating each other up.

In the UFC, mixed martial artists can punch, kick, choke and otherwise batter their opponents with a dizzying array of techniques. The clashes are sometimes boring, sometimes brutal, and increasingly popular. Nearly every episode of this reality spin-off culminates with a match inside the Octagon, complete with pre-fight interviews.

The mixed martial arts on display in the UFC can be bloody, but the fighting is only the beginning of this series' problems. While the men actually seem to get along in the house (though three were kicked out for beating on each other outside the Octagon), the interviews are loaded with swagger and trash talk. Perhaps dissing one's opponent is a requirement. Nevertheless, these interviews are laced with so many bleeped swear words that the show can sound like an R2-D2 sing-along. And this being cable, scores of curses every episode are not bleeped, such as when guys say they want to knock a rival on his "a--" or proclaim they're nobody's "b--ch."

All of that testosterone takes its toll on their posh digs as well. Contestants break windows, throw fruit at each other and toss mattresses into the pool. Add alcohol, and things get even more out of control. One contestant gets drunk during a season-ending party, spends the night in the bathroom and wakes up to find his head partially shaved.

"Anytime you have 12 dudes and alcohol, things just don't turn out right," one housemate said with a grin. So true, though the chaos is its own reward, not a moral to the story.

It's possible Ultimate Fighter 6 will have a different vibe than did Ultimate Fighter 5. Matt Hughes, a renowned UFC welterweight and professing Christian, will be one of the coaches this time around. Still, I suspect that Spike would drop this show like a sizzling spud if it cleaned up its act too much. It exploits the worst aspects of sports and reality TV, and does so with a smile, a bleep and a bar-arm choke.

Episodes Reviewed: Season 5: #10, 11, 12 (June 2007)


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