Monday, July 11, 2011

Fuel-TV Goes Jeet Kune Do: Bruce Lee Lives!

He was an icon of cool who could take out a brawling gang of dozens. The continuing fascination with the life and teachings of Bruce Lee eclipses James Dean’s cult following and rivals that of Charlie Parker for the mystical devotion they inspired. Continuing their commitment to cinematic martial arts begun with Late Night Kung Fu, Fuel-TV examines the man and his legacy through the eyes of his admirers in the six-part Bruce Lee Lives!, which kicks off this Wednesday.

As a home of mixed martial arts (MMA) and extreme sports, Fuel TV draws on many of their up-and-coming competitors for commentary. However, this is quite apt in the case of MMA, considering Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do is considered the original form of pragmatically selected mixed martial arts disciplines, as Lives! lucidly explains. Kenny Florian, the only fighter to compete in four of the UFC’s seven weight divisions, is particularly eloquent describing Lee as a personal source of motivation and a continuing influence for most of his colleagues. The BMX’ers and the like might not be of as much interest to Lee’s followers or his film fans, but everyone is entitled to take inspiration from Bruce Lee.

Perhaps the best sequences of the first episode feature his god-daughter Diana Inosanto, who convincingly positions Lee as a pioneer of independent filmmaking as well as a martial arts innovator. In fact, his self-produced Hong Kong films arguably blazed a trail for current HK action auteurs and festival favorites, like Wong Kar-wai and Johnnie To. Not surprisingly, Lives! will spur many viewers to revisit Lee’s signature films as well as the surprisingly good bio-drama Dragon: the Bruce Lee Story, whose director Rob Cohen also appears as a talking head.

At least in its first episode, Bruce Lee Lives’ combination of action-driven clips, colorful anecdotes, and caffeinated attitude is pretty compulsively watchable. Of course, it is ultimately due to the charisma and mystical significance of its subject. Frankly, the series would be perfect weekend afternoon hangover TV, but for now, it airs Wednesday nights at 10:00 PM EST, starting this week (7/13) on Fuel-TV.