I have to admit it. There was a time when I was addicted to reality TV. It was my crack and I was a willing addict willing to do anything to get my fix. Thankfully, my obsession subsided before the Kardashians rolled into town, but it was a close call.
Given my reality TV past, I think that I was well-qualified to review The Show (formerly This is Your Death). Given our society's infatuation with reality TV in every form imaginable, this is a film that I think will resonate strongly with many of its viewers. The only problem is that the film has trouble finding its tonal direction and Josh Duhamel is often left trying to steer a rudderless ship.
The premise of the film is strikingly simple, yet also complex. When a Bachelor-esque reality TV show takes a violent turn on live TV, the network discovers that its audience has a bloodlust that it naturally wants to satiate. While Josh Duhamel's Ryan Seacrest character initially lobs some moral objections, he quickly sets them aside to pursue the almighty ratings points.
The idea of a live broadcast of death isn't new to Hollywood. It has been done over and over again whether it's The Running Man, Death Race 2000 or The Hunger Games. While those films seemed to glorify violence, The Show uses a different twist by glorifying suicide and turning into a game show complete with monetary prizes.
Besides the obvious problem of marginalizing and trivializing something as serious as suicide, the real travesty is that the film fails to take any time to dive deeper into the underlying depression that is the root cause of our national suicide epidemic. There are times when I was hoping that the film would pivot on this twist and elevate the film to where I imagine they intended it to end up. Instead, they opted to give the audience what it unwittingly wants, gruesome deaths with little time to pause and reflect on them.
And yet, the filmmakers present a pretty convincing critique of human behavior by pointing out the absurdity of our mutual obsessions with reality TV and violence. At the end of the day, the best compliment that I can give this film is the fact that the surreality that they create on screen has a real chance of becoming our reality in the near future.
The best arc (and appropriately the best performance in the film) belongs to Sarah Wayne Callies who plays Josh Duhamel's sister in the film. She has been great on the small screen for so long that it's refreshing to see her stretch her legs on the big screen. Callies responds by providing one of two human touchstones in the film (the other is by director/actor Giancarlo Esposito) that gives the viewer a glimmer of a hope that we might be able to avoid our bleak future.
Ultimately though, the film spends more time chastising the audience for watching and then proceeds to give them exactly what they want. So, the result is a mixed message at best and a film that gets muddled in the middle after an intriguing start. There are hints that the film might have been something more at one time, but it seems that it was watered down through the production process and the end result is a vanilla film that it neither engaging nor entertaining enough to justify such a strong cast.
The Show is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.