Review of UFC: The Ultimate Fighter - Season 4 (5 Discs)
Come the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter - the UFC`s reality TV competition - it was felt that the show needed somewhat of a change. Up until this point, it had been a very successful ratings winner for Spike TV, focusing in on the show`s coaches, trying to put them over as competitors that the public would want to see fight. The most obvious example of this was in the previous T.U.F season, when Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz did monster pay-per-view business (775,000 customers paying $40 each) on the back of their show-long feud.
This season, the emphasis was on the training fighters themselves, all of whom had seen UFC action in the past, though mostly unsuccessfully. The season was subtitled "The Comeback", and the winners both the Middleweight and Welterweight elements of the show, would go on to receive title bouts with the respective UFC champions.
In the Middleweight competition, the fighters were: Travis Lutter, Charles McCarthy, Gideon Ray, Jorge Rivera Pete Sell, Scott Smith, Patrick Côté, and Edwin DeWees.
In the Welterweight competition, the fighters were: Rich Clementi, Mikey Burnett, Jeremy Jackson, Pete Spratt, Shonie Carter, Chris Lytle, Matt Serra, and Din Thomas.
The Ultimate Fighter first aired on Spike TV (closely followed by Bravo TV in the UK) between August and November 2006.
Video is presented in 4:3 fullscreen PAL, and is very good for a DVD of this genre. The show is tightly but very professionally edited, and it is obvious that a lot of time, effort, and money has gone into its production. That said, it isn`t edited to the point where everything feels overly slick, as is often the case with pre-taped reality shows.
The transfer to DVD is also very good, with no distracting compression artefacts.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, and while it contains no frills, it is all that you could expect from a made-for-television show. Much like it`s video bedfellow, the audio is tightly edited, but not to detrimental proportions. The all-important dialogue is generally very clear in the mix, and where it is not, subtitles are used.
There are several bonus features available on Disc Five of this set. These begin with the cast interviews, used to decide which of the former UFC fighters were going to make it to the show. These aren`t without humour, for differing reasons, in particular the sit-downs with Matt Serra and Shonie Carter.
There are also four extensive fighter profiles here, featuring Patrick Côté, Chris Lytle, Travis Lutter, and Matt Serra. Narrated by UFC President Dana White, these are excellent insights into each fighter, detailing their personalities via their actions during the season. There is some unused Season Four footage used in these, and each profile does an excellent job of helping you to establish your own thoughts about each of the four.
The final bonus is a selection of deleted scenes, covering two topics. The first is Shonie Carter`s flamboyant persona - if it is a persona at all - and his penchant for speedos, and the second is Team Mojo`s disgust at Scott Smith`s flatulence. As you can imagine, these are included almost exclusively for comedic value, and will certainly appeal if you enjoy a little adolescent humour.
The Ultimate Fighter 4: The Comeback was clearly a tool designed to add some more depth to the Welterweight and Middleweight divisions in UFC, and to build to marketable pay-per-view bouts, but don`t let that cynical reasoning trick you into believing that this isn`t entertaining programming. It most certainly is.
Several intriguing stories come up during the series - including the fighters` reaction to appearances by Rich Franklin and Matt Hughes, and one competitor`s decision to momentarily escape the house to meet up with a woman he met - not to mention the goings-on in the Octagon, and in the Ultimate Fighter house. With sixteen competitive men in one house, chaos naturally ensues.
There are several good fights throughout the season, made more interesting by the way which we follow the various characters in the build-up. Each show is skilfully put together so that (mostly) we care about who advances to the next round, and who does not. Episode by episode, the show drags you in, and in that that sense, it`s wonderful to have the next forty-five-ish minutes just a Play button away.
The Season Finale show, naturally, is included here, and is a full card of fights, featuring many of the show`s participants, as well as the Ultimate Fighter finals. One of the bouts on this show will long be remembered as having one of the greatest UFC knockouts in history.
Overall, "Ultimate Fighter 4: The Comeback" is an excellent television production, very well reflected on DVD. It isn`t typical "Big Brother" or "I`m A Celebrity..." reality TV fare, as this reviewer can take no longer than five minutes of either of those.
Instead, this is a must-see for any UFC fan, and if you are a sports fan who can stomach even a hint of reality TV, this is very much worth your time.