Epix will step into the sports competition ring tonight (Aug. 24) with a reboot of the boxing docu series The Contender.
The Mark Burnett-produced series – which previously ran on ESPN, NBC and the now defunct Versus channel during the late 2000s – journeys into the lives of 16 up-and-coming boxers as they compete in an elimination-style boxing tournament. Former light heavyweight boxing champion Andre Ward will host series.
I recently spoke to Epix president Michael Wright to get the premium channel’s take on its version of the series. Here’s what Wright and Epix wants you to know about The Contender.
It’s all about the drama: There is such a marvelous element of human drama in this version of The Contender. We know the show’s been on before and it’s always been a good show, but we had to be able point to something distinctive about it. What we all leaned into was the human drama; every episode is a little Rocky episode.
More character-driven storylines than in previous The Contender versions: The show is really about these young men and it's beautifully cast, and by the sixth episode you find yourself saying ‘I want that guy to be OK.’ There's a greater emphasis in this version of the show on the individuals, and a greater attention paid to that guy's wife, or his mother or the father that he promised he would change his life around because of this show. There's a lot more emotion in this version of it.
The series still packs an action punch: The [in-ring] contests are still there -- it's 16 fighters and there will only be one contender standing at the end, and that's great for the series. [The fights are] the black velvet against which the diamonds that these fighters are can shine. I actually love boxing and I think there's still a connection or an association between boxing and the premium networks.