Hey there. Well, after being filmed twenty-six years ago, NBC has finally created enough distance between the Dante's Peak that was the Next Great Champ to cash in on the supposed Million Dollar Baby craze that's sweeping the…something, and finally release this sucker. Why preamble? It's Sly. It's Sugar Ray. It's DreamWorks TV -- the people that brought you the also absurdly expensive Father of the Pride. Without further "stroke the shaft, cup the balls," here's The Contender.
The show starts six minutes late. Joe Rogan can't edit himself. Can't act either, but that didn't stop them from hiring him for News Radio. Tinkle-y piano music plays, signifying upcoming emotional revelations -- tying boxing into more than kicking ass. I imagine that's a message we're going to hear a few times tonight. Like, four million, a few. A silhouette boxes. Ha, "shadow boxes." It's some white dude saying he's now getting the chance to prove he's really a fighter. A black dude mumbles that it's the way to get out of the ghetto. He's jogging in the ghetto. He raises his "victory arms" on cue. Ghetto cue. A fucked-up-looking Latino guy with a caved-in nose holds his young daughter. The Strings of Getting You Invested Before Sly Ruins Everything kick in. Cavenose camera-talks about helping out his family and they'll have to kill him to get him out of the ring. I hope this isn't the guy who shot himself a few weeks ago, because that would be some unfortunate editing. And then there's a man walking on a bridge over the train tracks. He's wearing a black suit and a polo, and he has a voice like Eeyore on Quaaludes in a minor earthquake doing an impression of Marlon Brando from Streetcar. Or something like that. Yup, folks, it's Sly Stallone! Rock-y! Ram-bo! Os-car! The guy from Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! He's walking and talking but not looking at the camera. It's sorta like Jennifer Flavin sent him to buy a quart of milk and he got confused and kept on walking east and around downtown L.A. started doing some monologues from Over The Top. Sly tells us that "life is a fight. Everyone gets knocked down. What matters is how fast you get up." Cue the Chumbawamba, now! No? He says that's what this story is all about. The thing he said, not Chumbawamba.
The Music Rejected From The Next Karate Kid plays as Sly launches into a speech and we get a montage of the sixteen contestant/boxers in their natural habitats. Train tracks. A dirty gym. A wheat field. A shanty porch. Someone talks about his father who is currently in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan. Liar. Another says his "daughter and son" and "a dream within [his] heart" and "no better reason to fight." Another wants his mom to stop working in a warehouse. Yeah, that is a really terrible music chain. Unmistakable chord changes begin, which bring to mind artfully-moussed hair and male eyeliner and oh shit, it's the Goo Goo Dolls. Man, this ancient song must have been cheap. More families. More boxers. Cavenose's wife talks about her husband being a family man and (buying her shit) as said family sits at the table, a Sierra Mist! artfully displayed at the front edge of the table. Quelle coincidence! That just happens to be a major sponsor of this show. A mother cries, hoping her son stops boxing. Families. Sweaty men. More families. Hugging. Get it: FAMILIES! Sly talks about the sixteen men with one common goal: "To fight live at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for one million dollars and the chance to change their lives and the lives of the people they love forever." Wow. That's a really long and specific goal for sixteen men to coincidentally all have. Justification Of Boxing. Justification Of Boxing. Boxing tied to dreams and family. Dreams and family. Family and family. And dreams. Love&dignity&courage&dreams&family. Not beating the shit out of people and then raping someone and getting a face tattoo and buying some tigers to keep as pets. No. FAMILYFAMILY!
A wife talks about her man fighting for his family. The crap Goo Goo Dolls song from that stupid Nic Cage Ghost rip-off (directed by that Brad dude who's My Sister Sam-actress girlfriend was taken away from him at a young age, and has been directing mediocre films about death to work through the pain ever since) kicks into the singing part as someone dangerously boxes on the top of a mountain and another spars in slo-mo and another does push-ups with his kids kids kids kids kids family kidskids on his back and then another runs up the Rocky steps in Philly. Deep breath. Sly asks us, camera-talking in front of Caesars, "Who will have the heart? Who will have the courage? Who will dare to be great?" The camera then swoops up and keeps going to reveal he's standing in some weird outdoor boxing ring and then there's all of the casino and the strip and familyfamilyfamilyfamilyfamily!