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Overall Rating

Awesome: 34.55%
Worth A Look49.09%
Average: 14.55%
Pretty Bad: 1.82%
Total Crap: 0%

6 reviews, 19 user ratings

Series 7: The Contenders
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by EricDSnider

"It's funny 'cause it's true"
5 stars

"Series 7" is one of the most devastating satires of American pop culture ever conceived, a vicious and dark look at "reality TV" -- and, by extension, our society's obsession with everyone getting their 15 minutes of fame.

The film is set up as a marathon of an entire season of "The Contenders" (it's the show's seventh year, hence the title), a TV show in which six strangers are chosen at random, put in an American city, and told to kill each other. The last one alive becomes the champion and returns the next season to face five new opponents.

The reigning champion is Dawn (Brooke Smith), an eight-months-pregnant, no-nonsense gal whose wiles and cunning have already helped her dispatch several contestants. (The first shot of the film is of her, hugely pregnant, barging across a parking lot with a pistol in her hand -- one of many audaciously ironic visual images we're treated to in the movie.)

Her new opponents, introduced by your standard melodramatic narrator, are as follows: a sweet nurse named Connie (Marylouise Burke) who insists she cannot kill yet has Kevorkian tendencies; an unemployed family man named Tony (Michael Kaycheck); a loony old man named Franklin (Richard Venture); an 18-year-old daddy's girl named Lindsay (Merritt Wever); and Jeff (Glenn Fitzgerald), a suicidial cancer patient.

The setting of this season's "The Contenders" is Newburt, Conn. ("the Nutmeg State," the narrator is careful to mention), which probably not coincidentally -- you know how manipulative reality show producers can be -- is Dawn's hometown. In fact, we discover, she and Jeff had a relationship as high school students.

Except for the profanity (which should have been bleeped out for proper effect; a woman's nudity is blurred, like it would be on TV) and the shortness of each episode, you'd never know you weren't actually watching a TV show. It even pauses for commercial breaks (which last a nanosecond) and has a cliffhanger at the end of each episode.

Written and directed with precision detail by Daniel Minahan, "Series 7" couldn't have come at a better time, what with "reality TV" being all the rage at the start of the new millennium. We've all been raised on TV; in fact, most of our parents (and even THEIR parents, in many cases) were raised on it, too. TV is boring now. In order for us to be entertained by it, we have to actually be part of it. Watching is boring.

One interesting aspect about "The Contenders" is that the contestants are chosen at random and apparently are powerless to refuse. In real life, people are willing to go on TV just to be famous, even if there's no money involved; in this not-too-distant future world, people don't just WANT to be on TV; they're compelled to.

"Series 7," then, is the logical extreme of the directions we're already heading. Sooner or later, we'll be bored with people stranded on desert islands, and someone will have to up the ante.

As if to smack us in the face for even thinking such a thing, the film is at times wantonly violent. One contestant is beaten to death with a cane (as family members look on), and there's no sparing the blood when people are shot. Minahan seems to say, "You think the idea of a TV show where contestants have to kill each other is funny? Well, here's how awful it would be if it really happened."

Relentless morbid and incredibly, darkly funny, "Series 7" is a brilliant parody. The funniest thing is, we -- the American TV audience -- are the targets.

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originally posted: 02/11/01 09:48:51
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User Comments

11/18/06 AJ Muller disturbing satire; definitely "gives the viewing public what they want to see" 4 stars
11/05/05 millersxing To the jaundiced eye, an irreversible trend toward SnuffTV emerges. Charming, never scary. 3 stars
11/21/04 Tawiah Craig It lookes so real that it was scary. 4 stars
12/15/03 delia johnson another good satire on reality tv, but not brutal enough. 4 stars
11/01/03 Nigel Fox A dark look at television gone mad, this parody of Fascist state is always right tv. 5 stars
1/28/03 graal Not close enough to what would really happen in this situation 3 stars
12/10/02 davebo Aside from the premise all it did was copy realitytv, not mock it 2 stars
7/27/02 sdjfsdkjf fucken crazy film. Lindsey getting beat up like that...not pretty. 5 stars
1/12/02 The Bomb 69 beautifully done, wicked funny with an awesome ending, should have explained rules better 5 stars
1/06/02 hum dark and clever 4 stars
12/29/01 Monday Morning Reality TV shows are fat targets and this gets damned close to the bulls-eye. 4 stars
10/30/01 mr. Pink A bit flawed in some parts, but still one of the best films I´ve seen this year. 4 stars
6/10/01 Roxxy Where can I enter? 4 stars
6/06/01 Belinda This movie ROCKS. 5 stars
6/04/01 lee despite the violence, l liked the clever and dark wake up call for our tv culture 4 stars
5/30/01 Aiken Drum This is one fucked up movie, I loved it. 5 stars
3/18/01 Blubberbot I really wanted to give it 4.5 stars. This is a good film. 4 stars
3/07/01 Kiss My Grits People like Mike Krasienko shouldn't be allowed to post. Sing the films' praises or shut up 5 stars
3/05/01 Finity i liked it a lot 5 stars
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  02-Mar-2001 (R)


  31-May-2001 (MA)

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