By Eddie Graveline, FullContactWriter.com
As a guy who's watched every episode of every season of "The Ultimate Fighter," I was very intrigued when the UFC announced that they'd be introducing a new live format when the popular reality series moved from it's original home on Spike TV to the FX network last week.
To be honest, I used to get really pumped up for every new season of "TUF," but that enthusiasm waned a long time ago. After the first two or three seasons, it all started to run together in my mind. I got used to the recurring themes and personalities among the fighters and coaches and though each season always had a couple of highlights, I've watched more because of a sense of duty than genuine interest the last several seasons.
This season's premier was entirely live, featuring fights to whittle the 32 fighters down to the 16 that would move into "the house" and compete on the show. The live elimination fights were a great start. Most of them were very competitive and there were several big finishes to pique the interest of viewers.
What I was really waiting to see was how the normal episodes would look and feel with the new format. Basically, the first three quarters of each episode features footage of what took place in the house and the training center during the previous 7 days. The end of the show is dedicated to live coverage of that week's fight.
I don't want to give away details from the first few episodes, just in case you've DVR'd them and haven't watched yet, but I will say that I'm really enjoying the new format so far. By limiting each episode to covering action from a 7-day period, I think a lot of the potential for contrived drama is going to be eliminated. All of the previous seasons were shot months before they aired and the producers could cut and paste interviews, pranks and all other incidents to build drama. In other words, there's less room for the producers to impose exaggerated story lines to the show.
Like I said, so far so good. The second episode of the season showed both teams training during the week since the elimination fights. It also covered some very personal issues that one of the fighters ended up having to deal with. Most importantly, it featured an exciting fight that was finished in dramatic fashion.
I've always been kind of annoyed by the extra-curricular garbage that came with past seasons of "The Ultimate Fighter." Having a live component to each episode is going to bring things into a much clearer focus. Getting each week's events in true chronological order is going to give viewers a much more realistic perspective of what's actually going on. I have a hunch that the fighters themselves will be portrayed more accurately as well. I'm sure they'll appreciate that as much as I do.
New live episodes air on Friday nights on FX. Check local listings for times in your area.