Mark Burnett’s boxing franchise is now a couple of seasons old, which has led to a spin-off The Contender: Muay Thai for AXN Asia (an “action adventure” Pay TV channel throughout Asia). That probably explains why this doesn’t have any of the production values of his usual shows.
The premise is typical Burnett. A bunch of boxers are divided into teams, with mentors and a host, and eliminated one by one. The series, oddly, is shot in Singapore, not Thailand. AXN Asia is based in Singapore, so no doubt the infrastructure was already in place to shoot locally. As a result it lacks the authenticity it could have achieved in Bangkok -where Muay Thai rules.
The setting for this series looks like a garage fight club, complete with the ‘Contender roll-a-door.’ The hostess, Jaymee Ong, is an Asian-Australian model-actress, but adds little personality to the show with cliche links.
The fighters hark from across the globe including Canada, France, the UK, Thailand, USA and Australia. There are three Aussies here, one of whom becomes a team leader.
Muay Thai is a mix of fierce strength, respect and reverence. The series focuses more on the former than the latter. While the first episode doesn’t offer any threat to the likes of Tony Jaa (Ong Bak), the fighting is true to form -if fighting is your thing.
Aside from Muay Thai itself it really doesn’t offer anything new, and feels more like a cheap Asian pirate version of the real thing.