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MTV’s Caged – A Season in Review
By Christopher “sLapDatSuCKa” Jester
MTV sometimes gets it right. Basically, the progenitor of reality television with the likes of The Real World, Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, and so on – MTV has been creating hit reality shows since the early ‘90s. One of their most recent outings, a show called Caged, takes the same formula that is found on those other shows and tries to spice it up with a bit of action. The action this time is in the form of mixed martial arts.
The show aired on January 9, 2012 and had a season of ten episodes. The show followed three main characters Daniel, Wes, and Danger – a group of southern boys who all want a professional career in mixed martial arts. But like the rest of MTV’s reality shows there has to be a catch. This is where drama ensues and the three main characters struggle with trying to raise their careers but also maintain their personal life.
The premise of Caged is a good one. Three young guys are solely focused on getting fights, training, and putting that training to use in the cage. Daniel in the first episode is built up to be the small town of Minden, Louisiana’s hero. After being viciously knocked out in the first episode, his story arc is about redemption and getting back on track after a terrible lost.
Wes appears to be the nonchalant “I don’t care” type of guy who struggles with a bit of everything in his life: from being a good boyfriend, to having issues with making weight, and ultimately being a good father. His story arc while a bit more dramatized had much more of a realistic approach as he had to deal with the issues that all fighters must deal with: life outside of the cage.
Danger seemed to show the most potential at becoming a real pro mixed martial artists at some point. He is young but he seems to have most of his life on track at the beginning of the season. He dedicates himself to training as well as keeping his life in balance. However, throughout the season, things begin to change for him and it eventually takes a toll on his training and his fights.
What really worked for Caged is the premise. Following these guys, really made it seem like watching a documentary on the life of a mixed martial arts star. Although these guys are amateurs, the show did a good job showing how they fair as mixed martial artists and as people.
The creators of the show did a superb job at finding the right guys to star on the show, and the location of the show. Minden, Louisiana was perfect, as it was able to show how much mixed martial arts meant to a small town. Much like a small town with football, the townspeople of Minden would come out and support their local heroes and it was good to see mixed martial arts loved so dearly. Some of these guys probably won’t make it pro, but it was important to see how much they were loved by their town.
What it was good to see was the different aspects of a mixed martial artist’s life. Training is important, of course. But in one episode, Daniel had to go around town asking for local shops to sponsor him, so that he could pay for training. Sometimes, MMA fans don’t realize all the things fighters have to go through in order to get ready for fight night. That was a little touch that really made the show feel authentic and real.
The first half of the season did great work in displaying the struggles mixed martial artists have to go through in life as a fighter. The show takes us from the highs and lows: from Daniel suffering a terrible knockout in front of his friends and family, to Wes struggling to make weight but also the responsibilities of being a father, and to Danger who wants to solely focus on training and fighting but is sucked in by the disparity of his mother’s alcoholism. The show packs on a lot of the out of the cage experiences as well as the training and the fight preparation.
But there is the problem. The first half of the season did a good job displaying what it takes to be a mixed martial artist. Yet, the show seemed to lose its way after the first couple of episodes. It became less about fighting and more about the drama. One of the other billed main characters on the opening sequence is Red – Wes’s on-and-off again girlfriend. This is where creators of the show made a mistake.
Sure, the creators of the show likely wanted to gain the female audience by putting in a single mom who tussles with being a mother as well as lady friend to an MMA fighter who in her eyes is the irresponsible father of her child. But, putting the camera in her face just seemed tacky. It wasn’t needed. Nor was the scene where she’s standing out in a parking lot talking on the phone about how she found pictures of Wes with another female. What does this have to do with Caged? Very little, and it was that little unnecessary drama that the show did not need.
If they would have spent less time dealing with issues like Danger’s love life squabbles, such as whether the girl he’s been dating is cheating on him with someone else, then the show could have had more to offer. They should have focused more on plotlines such as Danger’s responsibilities when he had to take over the duties of his friend who was the owner of their gym. Or better yet, follow the story of a secondary recurring character in John Wesley who decided to get back to fighting after taking years off from being inside the cage. One episode focused on his return to the cage, and it was brilliant. But the show decided to go in other directions. Sure, these things do happen, but the focus on delivering “Oh-No-He-Didn’t” moments became the show’s attraction rather than the theme of mixed martial arts.
Caged had a great concept, but it was too heavily sprinkled with teen angst to attract its core audience which should be MMA fans. However, as the show went on, it seemed to lose the idea of who the creators were trying to attract. The target audience became less for MMA fans and more for teen reality lovers. The series tried to be original but failed to get past the hump of all reality shows; which is the drama. In the end, it became more serialized than following its documentary style exploration into the lives of mixed martial artists. It is worth checking out just for the inside scoop on the life of up-and-coming MMA fighters, but be wary because the show is overrun with too much of traditional teen reality drama.
MTV’s Caged – Bonus Clip: Take a look at where the cast of “Caged” is now and their plans for the future.
Follow Christopher “sLapDatSuCKa” Jester on Twitter @sLapDatSuCka
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