Series Seven: The Contenders

http://us.imdb.com/Title?0251031

The random IMDB movie comment I pulled up for this movie summed it up a lot better than I could:

The only good section in this movie was the Joy Division video. The rest of “Series 7” was dull and silly. None of the characters were likeable. This rubbish should have been shown on T.V. but then most people would think it’s true.

… which is exactly why this movie is so great. It’s such a totally dead on parody of reality television to the extreme. Some of the sections are hilarious, not because they’re actually funny-- in fact they’re sort of horrifying-- but because they mimic so perfectly the “dramatic” devices used in reality TV.

Interestingly, the main character is the senator’s daugher from Silence of the Lambs. Betsy finally made the “geez, I’ve seen that actress before” connection in the middle of the movie. She’s not only a PhD but also a movie genius, evidently.

I saw this movie a couple of years ago when it came out. I think it’s interesting that it was actually made before the most recent rash of reality TV.

I remember somewhat liking this film, but feeling that about the last 1/3 of the movie was just them figuring a way to wrap things up somehow, and could have been a lot better. It’s like, the joke is funny while it’s fresh, but it wears out after a while. But then, the actual ending, like the last 5 minutes of the film, was really cool, and something that most Hollywood movies would just not even attempt. (I don’t want to say anything about what the actual ending is, for those who haven’t seen it).

Well, sure, it felt contrived, but so does reality television. I think that was the point. And the way her ex-boyfriend was, er, “randomly” picked to be one of the contenders.

Not a perfect movie or anything, but it succeeds so brilliantly at its most obvious goal: a vicious satire of reality television. Released in 2001, it does somewhat predate the major reality TV trend we have now, but I think at least Survivor was on at that time.

Here’s one of the “negative” reviews from salon.com:

March 02, 2001 | “Series 7” is a painstaking, often brilliantly executed imitation of unwatchable crap. Now, excuse me if I’m wildly off-base here, but doesn’t that sort of make it worse than regular old unwatchable crap? Writer-director Daniel Minahan, an escapee from the television industry with an ax to grind, conceived of this satire a few years back, based on the first wave of '90s reality TV: “The Real World,” “Cops,” etc. But you can’t satirize something that’s moving faster than you are. For all its pitch-perfect emulation of the genre’s cliches, “Series 7” arrives looking, if anything, not quite as invasive or sadistic as “Survivor” or “Temptation Island.”

Series 7 is well worth a look. It suffers a bit by being made before the current batch of reality shows. There’s a certain formula to how these shows introduce their ‘characters’ and spool out personal information to get audiences involved, and Series 7 comes off as clunky in comparison.

*** SPOILERS ***

The ending is interesting; I can’t think of any other film that pulls its own actors at the end and inserts a supposed re-creation instead. The DVD also has an alternate ending which is radically different.

Best line: when the two remaining contestants take over a movie theater full of patrons. The woman gets on her cell phone with the producers and demands that they be released from the show or they’ll start killing people. Her speech about their will to survive is so passionate that the audience in the theater bursts into applause, at which point she whirls around and snarls, “That means YOU, assholes!”

Edit: made the spoiler announcement bigger/more obvious.

Dammit, I didn’t watch the alternate ending, and I’ve already deleted the DVD ISO image. What happened in it?

Also, just for clarity-- *** SPOILERS ***

*** SPOILERS - WHOO HOO! ***

Alternate ending: the remaining two contestants walk out of the theater, and are set upon by the crowd and beaten to death, presumably because they refuse to finish the show.

The scene gets more and more menacing as the two walk out to the parking lot and try to get into their car. They start walking but move faster and faster as members of the crowd get more agressive with them. Eventually they run for it, and are dragged down as they open the car doors. It ends with the crowd standing over the two (who have become separated from each other), just pounding away. If you’ve ever seen the film version of “The Lottery,” it’s like that.