Things haven’t been going great ratings wise for the Ultimate Fighter reality show. TUF4: The Comeback started strong but quickly slid in the ratings, panned by the general public as the dryest and most boring season yet. The fighters were too cautious in and out of the ring, and it spelled for terribly dull television. So I can understand where Dana and the gang were coming from when they put together the fighters for this season’s iteration. 16 emotional, hot headed guys … just what the show needs to create drama and excitement.
Unfortunately this tweak to the formula has not helped TUF’s ratings, and it’s now stuck around a 1.2 rating share when Zuffa and Spike had been hoping for 1.5. To put these numbers in perspective, here’s a quick little summary of TUF’s ratings from Ivan Tremblow’s blog:
Over the course of its first five episodes, the fifth season of TUF has averaged a 1.2 overall rating. At the same point in each of the previous TUF seasons (five episodes in), the first season was averaging a 1.5 overall rating, the second season was averaging a 1.6 overall rating, the third season was averaging a 1.7 overall rating, and the fourth season was averaging a 1.4 overall rating.
While the ratings aren’t ‘terrible’ by any means (anything over a 1 is considered a success for a cable channel), one can’t help but wonder what has to be done to get TUF back up to it’s heyday and 1.5 ratings. Zuffa thought that adding drama back to the show would help, but it hasn’t. And already their plan to have Matt Hughes and Matt Serra as the coaches for season 6 has drawn indifference from the MMA community as a whole. If the show doesn’t have a few tricks up it’s sleeve, it might not be around for much longer.
So because I know everything and am fucking awesome, here’s my list of things I would do to shake up The Ultimate Fighter:
1. Get rid of the losers
This was one of my biggest gripes from season 4. Keeping the losers around is breaking one of the holiest of holy reality show rules. After a fighter is beat, he should be sent packing with his tail between his legs. This gives the fights a much bigger significance, and it also allows the show to focus on the remaining fighters. With 16 fighters in the house from start to end, it’s impossible to get to know anyone.
2. Get a new fucking backdrop
Get a new house. For that matter, get a whole new location. I’m sick of the TUF house, and I’m sick of the show taking place in the house and in the gym. Fly these guys around the world. Train in Hawaii for a week. Train in South America. Train in England. Train in Japan. Now that would be something every week that people would be interested to see. The format of “Hang at the house, train at the gym, pick a fight, fight, the end” is so stale I’d rather cut my penis off with a butcher’s knife than watch another season of it.
3. Bring back the challenges
Yes the challenges are stupid, but that’s the point. You force a group of people to compete in some stupid challenge because it’s entertaining for the viewer. Your color commentary guy is Joe Rogan for fucks sake. Feed those bastards cow testicles. Make them race up to the top of a 20 storey building. There’s thousands of challenges you could have, MMA-related or otherwise. Not only does it give the show back the variety it desperately needs, but it gets rid of the dumb ‘Hammer’ concept.
4. Ditch ‘the Hammer’
You hear this all the time. No, there is no physical hammer, but whichever team wins the fight gets ‘the Hammer’, aka the right to choose the next fight. And this is a terrible idea. Why? Because the first team that gets to pick the matchup always wins over and over again. In a sport like MMA, the game will always be fixed for whoever gets to pick the match up. And so the team that wins a fucking coin toss in episode 1 gets to string together a number of fights that would make Eddie Sanchez vs Mirko Crocop seem fair. How is that fun to watch?
5. Force the coaches to interact more
BJ Penn and Jens Pulver were good choices for coaches this season. They’re both likable and they both hate eachother. But past the first episode when they were picking teams, these guys haven’t really had the opportunity to get in eachother’s faces. There’s 1001 things the show’s producers could do to force these guys to deal with eachother. Again, if the hammer were up for grabs and there were challenges, this would change that dynamic greatly. Instead of having the teams compete in one episode, have the coaches compete.
6. Give the fighters rewards
Here’s a tried and tested one from the classic reality show Survivor, which ties into the challenges: rewards. Reward the fighters who finish their fights, reward the guys who train the hardest, reward, reward, reward. And don’t just give them money. Send them out on the town. Have them host a big party at a Las Vegas hotspot. Let them spend the day with their favorite UFC fighter. Again, this brings back the variety that the show is starved for. The fighters aren’t the only ones bored out of their skulls just sitting around the house. It’s boring fucking TV.
These are not big changes to the format of the show. With the exception of #2, all of these items used to be done but aren’t anymore for whatever reason. You might say that all this stuff takes away from the MMA aspect of the show. I say that so long as there’s a fight at the end of every episode, who gives a shit?
P.S. : The theme song’s got to go too.