“Bully Beatdown“, which just ended a petite six-episode season on MTV, promises the targeted 12-24 year old suburban male demo the opportunity to watch mean boys get their comeuppance through the well-trained abuse of a real MMA fighter.
In the end, though, the desires of the downtrodden can’t be completely fulfilled by reality show king Mark Burnett’s trifle of a revenge fantasy due to deeply discounted production values, overscripting to the point of preciousness, and an utter lack of reality.
Not that anyone expects Errol Morris’ scrupulous style in an MTV/Mark Burnett castaway, but the bullies are stuntmen/actors and the victimized schlubs are also on the IMDb take. If the act was convincing, the viewer would set that aside.
However, no one flubs a line (and every line is a one-liner) or utters a single verbal tic through six episodes. It’s unnerving for the practiced reality show viewer and pulls them out of the moment. Consider it the Uncanny Valley for shows filmed cheaply in the Valley. The limited views and sounds of the fights also rob the viewer of any visceral satisfaction from the supposed Goliath slaying-by-proxy.
The show’s host, an MMA fighter with huge cachet in fight-crazy Japan, admitted as much about the “reality” half of the equation in a snide yet dryly funny sarcastic message board response near the end of the show’s run last month, adding that it “… makes my stomach hurt that I’m selling this slop. I’m sorry.”
Jason “Mayhem” Miller’s snarky post drives home the point, though, that he’s the best (and only) reason to watch. He’s beyond comfortable in front of the camera, bounces infectiously from jump cut to jump cut, and very nearly sells you on the importance of the low-rent morality play to come. The producers also wisely limit his exposure somewhat; the relentlessly manic approach can jangle as well.
Here’s to supporting the same strategy in season two while also hoping Miller’s got his eyes aimed beyond this meager platform for his charismatic persona. There’s a strong lesson for the viewers of “Bully Beatdown”: success is pretty good revenge, too.