Series 7: The Contenders Daniel Minahan
Published Apr 01, 2001In 1992, I sat in a theatre watching Tim Robbins' brilliant mockumentary Bob Roberts, listening to someone behind me marvel that they had never heard of the right wing politician/folk singer portrayed on screen. I dismissed him then as an idiot. But I fear the same reaction for "Series 7: The Contenders," a feature film that posits the extremes of reality TV.
In the "show," randomly chosen contestants are given guns and forced to hunt down other contestants before they're killed themselves. The "show" opens with Dawn (Brooke Smith), the eight-months-pregnant reigning champion, whose next assignment takes place in her home town. Thus, some of the people she's hunting are acquaintances, including her high school sweetheart Jeff (Glenn Fitzgerald), a pacifist dying of cancer.
"Series 7" knows its stuff, to be sure. The tone, feel, pace and look (shot on video, of course) is bang-on "Cops" episode, and initially its loose feel makes it feel like the concept is the whole (and only) joke. But "Series 7" isn't just out to skewer reality TV though it does a beautiful job of that, complete with contestants spotting each other because their opponents are also being followed by cameras but to create a drama around the precarious situation these people are placed in. Besides Dawn and her estranged love Jeff, there's a young high schooler pushed to succeed by her overbearing parents, the nurse who utilises her medical expertise to her advantage, the unemployed family man whose home life is crumbling: in other words, all the sick voyeurism that reality TV is really about.
By keeping things quick and snappy and under 90 minutes, "Series 7" gets in, makes its point and gets out. My only fear is that the proposed "Series 8," to be shown as a TV series, will be indistinguishable from so much else on television.