Caged, "Episode One": MTV's promising new reality show about cage fighters

Quick Take: Caged, "Episode One"
"Here in small town Louisiana, once you graduate high school nothing is given to you." - Red

caged

Review: Caged, "Episode One"
(S0101) I realize as I'm writing this that some readers will accuse me of blasphemy for what I'm about to say, but here it goes anyway: there are moments in MTV's new Mixed Martial Arts-based reality show Caged that remind me of my beloved Friday Night Lights. I know, I know, it's crazy to compare a reality show that has only aired a single episode to arguably the greatest television show of all time, and yet throughout the premiere I kept doing it. There's just something about Caged -- or at least the first hour of it -- that elicits a small amount (a very small amount, mind you) of that feeling you got when you were hanging out in Dillon, Texas.

Caged is about a group of young MMA fighters in rural Louisiana. Minden, Louisiana, where the show is set, looks very much like Dillon, which perhaps accounts for a large part of the FNL vibe I got. But there's more to it than that. Caged appears to want to explore similar themes of small town existence: the feeling of being trapped, the desire to escape, the pressure of expectations, and the thrill of an entire town transported -- however temporarily -- to a better place through organized athletics.

Aside from Friday Night Lights, Caged is engrained with elements from other shows like MTV's Teen Mom and Spike TV's Ultimate Fighter. The show opens with some narration from Red, a new mom and the girlfriend of Wes, one of the fighters we meet later. Red gives us some background on the characters and the town, emphasizing the fact that Minden is CRAZY about its MMA. It's clear from the jump that while Caged will focus on the boy's and their fighting, the emotional core of the show resides elsewhere.

Speaking of emotion, the premiere of Caged features a surprising level of emotional depth. The characters we meet are dealing with real issues. Red and Wes are struggling with being new parents. Danger, a scrappy, wiry fighter, is coping with abandonment. Daniel, the town's Golden Boy and top fighting prospect, is dealing with perhaps the toughest challenge of them all: the tragic death of his girlfriend.

I know it's early, but the premiere indicates that Caged might have some legs. The stories are compelling, the kids are easy to root for, and the fights at the end of the episode are pretty damn exciting. If you're not big into MMA, fear not. Caged requires little or no previous knowledge of the sport to enjoy it.

By Lucas High

About the author

Lucas High is a man on a mission. That mission: to watch television for a living. Drop him a line at lhigh2@gmail.com, on Facebook and on Twitter at twitter.com/LucasHigh.

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2 Comments
On: Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

Yeah, I can see the FNL connection. I'm reminded slightly too of The Contender, which is one of my all time fave competition-based reality shows. There's something about having a personal connection to guys who are battling for their lives in many ways. I agree, the show has promise. 

I have to admit that that Wes dude pissed me off, particularly his lack of sportsmanship after he won his bout. I wonder how he will handle inevitable defeats. 

On: Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Chelsi said:

I love Caged! Its my favorite show to watch everyday or when its on

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