Films

Series 7: The Contenders

UK release date: Mar 26 2008


cast list

Brooke Smith
Glenn Fitzgerald
Michael Kaycheck
Marylouise Burke
Merritt Wever
Richard Venture

directed by
Dan Minaham

The setup of Series 7: The Contenders is similar to the hit show Survivor, only on The Contenders thecontestants go around killing each other off until there is a winner at theend of each series.

Current champion Dawn (Brooke Smith) who also happens tobe eight months pregnant has returned home to Newbury, Connecticut to squareoff against five contestants: an unemployed father (Michael Kaycheck), adeeply religious nurse who also happens to be an angel of death (MarylouiseBurke), a teenager (Merritt Wever), a crazy old man (Richard Venture) and anartist suffering from testicular cancer (Glenn Fitzgerald) whom Dawnhappened to be in love with back in high school.

The camera follows Dawn andthe other five contestants around, capturing how being in the game isaffecting their lives and those around them as well, leading up to the timewhere they either live or die in the name of fortune and glory, not tomention ratings.

There really is nothing worse that watching a film where you say to yourself”Hey! I might be on to something here!” only to watch your enthusiasmfritter away in the blink of an eye. Brooke Smith, best known as the kidnapvictim from The Silence Of The Lambs, does a credible job here as Dawn and,for a while, made me have compassion for her character’s reasoning forcontinuing on with the show (she killed to protect her unborn baby).

But, aswith the other characters in the film, after a while I couldn’t care less whathappened to any of them simply because I thought they were all pretty muchjerks who deserved what they got. These aren’t people; they are white trashcaricatures with little to no redeeming value to them at all. Since theypopulate most of morning and afternoon television in real life, why the hellwould I want to pay ten bucks to watch a movie about them?

This is more the fault of writer/director Dan Minaham than it is the cast.His hand-held digital camera technique is fresh out of the Blair WitchProject School of Filmmaking (yawn) and his writing is not much better.Minaham seems not to know if he wants the movie to be taken seriously orfor laughs. Moments of poignancy have less emotional conviction than anItchy & Scratchy cartoon and a good majority of the intended jokes arepainfully unfunny.

Series 7: The Contenders is an interesting idea for a satire gone sour afterabout twenty minutes. The movie, a dark humoured goof on the whole decrepit”Reality Television” genre, shows some potential in its setup and initialintroductions of the show’s contestants, but as soon as it begins to try tomake a statement (and take itself seriously), it gets real old, real fast.

I try to watch as little television as possible. One thing I do avoid forthe most part (save the occasional episode of Cops) is the “reality shows”clogging the boob tube. On the whole they poorly made and acted to the pointthat they fall into the realm of self-parody. Series 7: The Contenders comesas too little too late and too lame to boot. If you want to see a smart,funny satire on the whole “reality as entertainment” genre, rent AlbertBrooks’ wonderful 1978 comedy Real Life and skip this film altogether.



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