Mike Tyson is known for delivering knockout punches but the docuseries looking at his life is far from a knockout. The first episode covers Tyson’s life growing up in New York, his many run-ins with the law, his stint in a juvenile detention center, how he developed his love for boxing and his world title win. These events are spliced together with bits taken from his one-man show where he covers all of these events. Throughout his life, Tyson seemed to be able to make a bad situation worse and the first episode leaves little doubt that we’ll see how that happens.
Trevante Rhodes stars as the former heavyweight champion boxer and he delivers. He is so charming in his delivery of the lines from Tyson’s one man show, it’s easy to forget the subject is a man who was in trouble with the law numerous times as a youth, was convicted a raping a woman and went to prison during his prime, and bit a man’s ear off in the middle of a boxing match. You find yourself rooting for Tyson to succeed when if you know even a little bit about his life, you know there will be far more failures than successes. That’s how strong Rhodes is in the role. He’s captivating, there’s no doubt about that.
No matter how captivating Rhodes is, the first episode feels a lot like it’s going through the motions more than delivering the punch to capture a boxing title. Tyson’s tough childhood is meant to make him more endearing, but unfortunately that’s undone by his life choices. Even at an early age, it was hard to get behind him. Obviously Rhode is too old to play a child or teenage Tyson, and while those actors do admirable jobs in the role, they don’t grab your attention like Rhodes does as the adult Mike Tyson. In these instances, you can remember that Tyson isn’t the carefully crafted comeback story we’ve seen over the past 25 years. His appearances in WWE, his one man show and the amazing work of publicists make him out to be a big teddy bear, but we know that most of his life has been a publicist’s nightmare.
I’m interested to see where this series continues to go. Tyson, himself, has spoken out against this series as an unauthorized biography. In a way, that gives it some credence to check out because it makes me think they will be unafraid to uncover all of the bad Tyson has done over the years. One authorized by Tyson might acknowledge his mistakes without digging too deep into them. This series has the opportunity to do just that. The first episode didn’t deliver, but that doesn’t mean the others won’t. “The Dropout” spent the entire first episode making you understand and almost like Elizabeth Holmes before tearing her down the rest of the series. “Mike” may do that as well, or at least tear down his transgressions.
The first episode is not bad, it just didn’t deliver like I had hoped. The rest of the series has a chance to deliver and I hope it does. I enjoy seeing Mike Tyson during his current public appearances, but I also never forget what he has done. I just acknowledge that, as far as we know, he has paid his debt through the legal system and has every right to make a living for anyone willing to see him. He may be a caricature of the man who knocked out the Spinks brothers, but that doesn’t mean that he still isn’t tough. I want to see more of both.
Ranking: 3 stars
What did you think of the first episode of “Mike?”