NOTE - This is reviewing the show only, as I have yet to see the Extra Features.
Now this is what reality television was meant to be. First off, the focus on what the show is about is dead-on. Sixteen men, who actually qualify to be here, are brought to train with and against each other in hopes of becoming a UFC fighter. The challenges, in which the winners gain the strategic advantage, are fun to watch and result in some good fights. The fights themselves would be worth the DVD alone, especially if they include the legendary Light-Heavyweight bout that finished the show (best of UFC ever!).
But with the fights come good drama, and none of it feels forced. You see, you will learn to love the competitors. You will appreciate the religion of Diego Sanchez, the cool style of Forrest Griffin, and the intelligence of Nathan Quarry. You will also meet some unpleasant fighters like the cocky Josh Koshcheck, the bitter Bobby Southworth, and the troubled Chris Leben. The important thing to note, though, is that even the semi-annoying fighters in the big house aren't unreasonably annoying. With their attitudes comes real emotions and skills that few of us possess. These men are not caricatures, but a magnificent study of how the imbalances of egos and skills clash both in and out of that intimidating octagonal arena.
The coaches are Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell (who fought 1 week after the show's finale), who are strong, wise, approachable, and skilled mixed-martial-artists. Both of these guys bring different but equally effective styles of coaching. Also present is UFC president Dana White. This guy is not executive hogwash. No, this man is not afraid to come down hard on the fighters, and speak bluntly about the 16 guys competing for those contracts. The only problem is that he doesn a little too much commentating with his interviews, but he is insightful and very smart.
What might the unintiated not like about this DVD collection?
Well, this is a show about fighting. If you don't really dig boxing or wrestling, then perhaps this isn't for you. It is a lot easier for me to recommend this First Season as a UFC fan, and martial-arts learner. But this show isn't about violence. The 16 fighters, the coaches, and Dana White all make it clear that UFC fighting is a job with no room for uncertainty. Professional fighting requires calculation, strategy, hard work, mental/emotional stability, and physical conditioning. I watched this entire season with a friend of mine who hates fighting, but she still grew to appreciate what these men do for a living, and loved that the unfit challengers didn't stick around very long.
This show exemplifies the perfect balance for reality TV. It's a competition, but it isn't too focused on being a game show. It's got lots of interviews and fighter-feedback, but is not too interested in the secret alliances or betrayals that have foreshadowed and ruined countless reality TV shows. The fights are good, but there is even intercut opinions to explain why the fighters did what they did in that ring, and why they were or were not smart with their game plan. The crew of this show took the time to edit enough so that fight-fans and martial artists could understand the terms and didn't get bored, and also enough so that newcomers didn't feel confused. I've always liked the UFC, but now I love it. This show has propelled the Ultimate Fighting Championship to new heights, and has rightfully earned its reputation. I'm not fond of reality TV that much (except for WWE's Tough Enough 1 and 2...see a connection here?), but "Ultimate Fighter" is an outstanding work of television, and has been followed by a good second season worthy of the franchise. This crew knows what its doing. I'll even go so far as to say that any fan of TV in general should check this DVD-set out. You want originality, emotional depth, hard-hitting competition, and non-censored television...you can have it all in one package! DO NOT PASS THIS UP!