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UFC: human cockfighting or utterly captivating?

UFC: human cockfighting or utterly captivating? (photo)

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Ultimate fighting, it seems, has finally come of age. UFC’s recently announced seven year, one hundred million dollar deal with Fox TV imparts a legitimacy to the bloodsport. And now we as a culture are going to have to have an adult conversation about whether or not ultimate fighting should or should not be a “mainstream” sport. Then again, the people may have already spoken on that, as the television deal and the hardcore following the sport has suggests.

UFC is not the anarchic gladiatorial fundament depicted in the movie “Fight Club.” I am somewhat of a divided mind about ultimate fighting. On the one hand, there is quite a bit of “art” that goes into these mixed martial arts — but a manly, very physical kind of art, to be sure. On the other hand, a strong though somewhat prudish argument could be made that it is indeed human cockfighting, as former prisoner of war and U.S. Senator John McCain has described the mixed martial arts. UFC’s earliest incarnation was indeed pretty gory. As David Plotz wrote in Slate in 1999:

UFC began in 1993 as a locker-room fantasy. What would happen if a kickboxer fought a wrestler? A karate champion fought a sumo champion? Promoters built an octagonal chain-link cage, invited eight top martial artists, and set them loose in no-holds-barred, bare-knuckles fights. “There are no rules!” bragged an early press release. Contestants would fight till “knockout, submission, doctor’s intervention, or death.” UFC allowed, even promoted, all notions of bad sportsmanship: kicking a man when he’s down, hitting him in the groin, choking. Four-hundred-pound men were sent into the Octagon to maul guys half their size. Only biting and eye-gouging were forbidden.

But that was then and this is now. The UFC, which has been grappling for a greater legitimacy — and a greater profitability — for several years now, is getting even more aggressive. Aggression is, quite frankly, hard-wired into this sport. But for the past few months their PR push has been on steriods. On November 12th, for example, UFC is going directly up against the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez PPV fight. In other words, mixed martial arts is being offered on basic cable directly against a major pay-per-view boxing event. The results should be quite interesting.

Further, on August 27th the UFC will air live undercard mixed martial arts matches in Times Square above the Doubletree Hotel. That’s a pretty ballsy move, on the real. It should again be interesting to see how tourist-heavy Midtown Manhattan reacts on a Saturday to the spectacle of two beefy dudes trying, essentially, to choke each into unconsciousness with ancient and modern fighting techniques. These super-aggro pushes could definitely backfire, highlighting the “human cockfighting” charge attached to the sport by its critics. Or these bold moves could have the effect of proving just how undeniably popular the sport has become. And by Christmas we could have a new mainstream sport in our midst.

In the past the organization and its champions have stressed the “art” of the fight. In 2006, Scott Pelley of the venerable 60 minutes spoke to Renzo Gracie of the famous Brazillian Gracie family about the “art” of mixed martial arts. Gracie, whose family utilizes a jiu jitsu heavy form of fighting that has won them titles and acclaim as the first family of the mixed martial arts, defended the sport:

“It goes far beyond that. The first impression is, hit him, knock him out, hurt him, but believe it, it goes far beyond that,” Gracie explains. “There’s so much technique involved, that I, to be honest, I think when I see a good fight, I think it makes a Russian ballet look like a uncoordinated body movements.” He admits that it can sometimes be a bloody ballet. “But the blood is the source of the whole thing. Believe – it’s not blood that’s coming out, it’s a little bit of pride that you’re putting out.”

A very masculine aesthetic; a very “bloody ballet.” Is this an idea whose time has come?

Let us know your own thoughts on UFC in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

48 Hrs

Law & Disorder

The 10 Funniest Cops In Movie History

Catch Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Ah, the action comedy. The magic of the movies makes “cracking jokes while waving a gun” hilarious instead of terrifying. With Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. airing this month on IFC, we raise our coffee and doughnut to the law-enforcement officers who never fail to make us laugh.

10. John McClane, Die Hard series

Whether it’s through his own suffering, his action-packed one-liners, or the way he scribbles “HOHOHO NOW I HAVE A MACHINE GUN” on dead bad guys, John McClane is the only cop we want to be stuck in a building full of terrorists with.


9. Martin Riggs, Lethal Weapon series

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The Lethal Weapon films were Mel Gibson’s most famous (fictional) encounter with the law. A suicidal ex-Special Forces soldier-turned-loose-cannon-cop, Riggs is only held together by his dedication to the law, his hatred of criminals, and his incredibly long-suffering partner Sgt. Murtaugh. Speaking of…


8. Roger Murtaugh, Lethal Weapon series

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Riggs is famous for being the unpredictable, madcap comedy character, but he’s only hilarious thanks to the heavy sighs of his straitlaced partner Murtaugh. Without Danny Glover’s comic reactions Riggs would just be a lunatic running around with a gun screaming at people.


7. Det. Inspector Lee and Det. Carter, Rush Hour series

The pairing of Chris Tucker’s motormouth wisecracker and Jackie Chan’s cool, high-kicking martial artist was such a potent combination, it went on to inspire several sequels and imitators. (Kevin Hart should send Tucker residual checks from those Ride Along movies.)


6. Schmidt and Jenko, 21 Jump Street series

The Channing Tatum/Jonah Hill reboot of the classic ’80s TV series redefined the buddy comedy by going meta and flipping the genre’s cliches on its head. We never thought we’d say this, but we’re actually looking forward to 23 Jump Street.


5. Jack Cates and Reggie Hammond, 48 Hours

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To be fair, with Eddie Murphy’s hilarious felon hauled around by Nick Nolte’s police officer, there’s technically only one “funny cop” between the two of them. But getting away with ridiculous abuses of regulations in service of doing the right (and funniest) thing is what 48 Hours  is all about. We wouldn’t have the buddy cop comedy genre without these two. Click here to see all airings of 48 Hrs. on IFC this month.


4. Nicholas Angel, Hot Fuzz

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In Edgar Wright’s hilarious take on action movie tropes, Simon Pegg’s supercop is sent to cool his heels in the sleepy town of Sandford. It’s hard to say what’s funnier: how he reacts when he realizes a small town doesn’t need him to deal with vast murder conspiracies and explosive action scenes, or how he reacts when it does.


3. Marge Gunderson, Fargo

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Frances McDormand’s inimitable Marge Gunderson chases down incredibly inept criminals while heavily pregnant. Her down-to-earth demeanor is funnier in context than any action hero’s murderous puns ever were. We still laugh when we think about Marge yelling “He’s fleeing the interview! He’s fleeing the interview!” as William H. Macy’s lowlife Jerry Lundegaard makes a break for it.


2. Frank Drebin, Naked Gun series

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Leslie Nielsen began his spot-on parody of stiff cops way back in the Police Squad! days. He took his act to the big screen, with a film series that managed to make even O.J. Simpson funny. Heck, Frank Drebin could make your own murder conviction sound hilarious.


1. Axel Foley, Beverly Hills Cop

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Eddie Murphy is the unquestioned star of ’80s cop comedies. Beverly Hills itself is barely big enough to contain his charisma. If this is a fish-out-of-water comedy, he’s a blue whale and the water is a crystal decanter of Perrier. Fun fact: Beverly Hills Cop was originally a Stallone film. Eddie made it a major comedy smash pretty much single-mouthed. Click here to see all airings of Beverly Hills Cop this month on IFC.

Season 6, Episode 2: Going Grey

Mitch Perfect

Mitchell Hurwitz’s 5 Funniest Roles

Mitchell Hurwitz has the prescription for laughs this Thursday at 10P/9c on a brand-new Portlandia.

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Mitch Hurwitz is known for being one of the smartest, most innovative comedy writers on television. By creating Arrested Development, he cemented his place on the Mount Rushmore of sitcom gurus. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, Hurwitz doesn’t need a pen and paper (or a MacBook Pro) to make the funny. Lately he’s carved out a second career as the guy behind all your favorite comedy cameos. To crib from Michael Bluth, you may ask yourself…him? To prove it, here are his five best roles, including a guest spot on this week’s episode of Portlandia premiering Thursday night at 10P. (Click here to find IFC on your TV in your area.) And trust us, we haven’t made a huge mistake.


5. Kroll ShowJason Richards

Hurwitz popped up on Nick Kroll’s sketch series as a man just trying to get the word out about canine cancer. One of his more understated turns, his dry delivery allows self involved Liz and Liz to dig their own graves.


4. Clark and Michael, Ramsay

Back in 2007, Michael Cera was coming off of Arrested Development when he put together this weird thing called a “web series” with his friend Clark Duke. One of the first to really break through, Clark and Michael told the story of two morons trying to sell a TV show. Hurwitz showed up as a know nothing agent trying to blow them off, which they refused to let happen.


3. Workaholics, Cool Eric

Hurwitz excels at playing square guys trying to act cool. Almost every character he plays has shadings of this dynamic, none more so than “Cool Eric,” the HR guy on Workaholics who abandons any pretense of professionalism at the slightest hint that the guys don’t think he’s chill.


2. Portlandia, Carrie’s OB/GYN

Hurwitz, in a brilliant turn, shows up on this week’s Portlandia as a gynecologist more interested in cracking jokes than cracking open women’s legs. He warns Carrie she’s “a couple of years away from being an old spinster…. These are the terms people use, I don’t make them up.”


1. Community, Koogler

The defining character (so far) of Hurwitz’s recent spate of cameos, the party obsessed, slacker college student Koogler became a highlight of Community‘s later years. With a career plan of getting laid, Koogler was the pitch perfect vessel to spoof a certain type of college movie, which all seemed to be taking place just off screen. Gentlemen, assume the party!

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