Thursday, June 28, 2007

Remembering Series 7: The Contenders

As I promised earlier in the week, I am writing about another movie that has stayed with me over the years.

If you are unfamiliar with the premise of Series 7: The Contenders it is basically reality show programming a la The World's Most Dangerous Game meeting Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, and through that mixture of elements, it becomes a very well-constructed satire of our society's fixation with reality game shows.

The game begins with 5 people being chosen at "random" in a town and being forced to kill each other(along a sixth contestant, the survivor of the last series), and each contestant is followed by a camera crew.

Brooke Smith plays the two-time reigning champion of The Contenders, Dawn Lagarto, an eight month pregnant single mother who just needs to be the last person standing in Series 7 to gain her freedom.

The snag for her is the site of her potential final battle on the show is Newbury, Connecticut the town she grew up in and finally left after feeling alienated. And like other reality shows, for the sake of drama, her high school sweetheart, Jeffery Norman (Glenn Fitzgerald), a man who is now dying of testicular cancer, is one of the other contestants.

The other four contestants are a nice cross-section of American society: a honor student, a nurse, a half-insane retiree and an unemployed laborer, and each has their own quirks and flaws, and they are supposed to be real people being thrown into the gristmill for public consumption, and dealing with those circumstances the best they can.

The movie is presented like one of those recap shows reality show producers put together for the end of a season, and Arrested Development's Will Arnett does a masterful job of narrating the whole sorted affair in the same style as his real life counterparts. Granted, if the show was real, it would likely be on Showtime or HBO because of the language, because it is laced with profanity.

Released in early 2001, it is an oddly prescient film about the excesses of reality show production: the shaping, the creation of false drama and putting people into uncomfortable and life-threatening situations for entertainment. Can anyone claim that there is a reality show that isn't guilty of one of those deeds?

And the funny thing is, director Daniel Minahan originally pitched the idea as a fictionalized weekly reality show. I don't think we will be seeing the hunting of humans on television any time soon, but it seems like every time the reality show bucket has run empty, someone finds a concept for a new one that is just different enough to be attention getting.

And considering he has now gone on to direct some of the most acclaimed television series(Deadwood, Big Love, Six Feet Under) since Series 7, I think he could have ran with that original concept all the way to the bank.


Mr. Fabulous said...

We saw this in the theater when it came out and loved it LOL

MC said...

I think it would have been a fun theatre experience.

Ironically enough, my version was taped off of cable after the finale of the Mole II: The Next Betrayal.

Segway said...

I saw Series 7 quite a while ago, but remember being blown away by it.

Now that I have recently discovered Will Arnett is the narrator, it certainly deserves a re-watch.

Come on over to the Will Arnett Research Project at

MC said...

I had forgotten a lot of the little cameos in the movie(like the Connors neighbor from Roseanne as Lindsay's father)... it is really good at what it does.