Director: Giancarlo Esposito
Starring: Josh Duhamel, Famke Janssen, Giancarlo Esposito, Sarah Wayne Callies, Caitlin FitzGerald
Would you end your troubles and commit suicide on live TV so others may benefit? Would you watch people die live on TV? The Show thinks you would and wants to show you what it would look like.
The basic premise surrounds the nature of reality television and the compromise of integrity all for lovely ratings and exposure. The need to drive ratings by upping the stakes and playing on the public’s misery is the key - and the public laps it up.
Adam Rogers’ (Duhamel) life is upended when a losing contestant on his game show, Married to a Millionaire, murders the bachelor before killing herself – and it’s all caught on TV. Appearing on a morning news show (hosted by a sheen teethed James Franco) to endorse the networks sorrow at the event, Rogers instead condemns the network, the viewers and himself for allowing the incident to happen. Way to go. With Rogers expecting to be fired, ruthless network executive Ilana Katz (Janssen) has other ideas (mwahahaha!).
The rant gained the network sky high ratings and now they want to capitalise on it. Having explored the legal loopholes, they’re going to create a new reality TV show headed by Rogers and produced by hot-shot producer Sylvia (FitzGerald) and it’s a doozy - entitled ‘This Is Your Death’, contestants carry out their suicidal dreams in front of a studio audience on live TV. If Rogers’ has the freedom to ensure the deaths are “meaningful” and promote life, then he’s in. Well, obviously he ends up doing it, though against the wishes of Sylvia and his addict-turned-doctor sister Karina (Callies). The show takes off, but everything begins to change for Rogers as the bodies pile up.
Riffing off of the idea laid out in 1976’s Network, The Show satirizes the notion of reality TV and the public lust for information and exploitation. As I watched, a perverse area of my brain believed that one day a show akin to This Is Your Death would be created and society would embrace it. It won’t come to that, I’m sure, but with the crap being peddled out currently who knows where we’ll be in the future? (Kardashians Explore Volcanoes? I can see it now…) What the movie gets wrong, or assumes, is that everyone is on the same wavelength when it comes to condemning reality TV.
Essentially, the movie focuses on two aspects – the network and their exploitative plans, and the ‘ordinary folks’ struggling to make ends meet, those who have reached the end of their tethers. Specifically, The Show focuses on Karina and Mason Washington (Esposito) and follows their decline juxtaposed with the network's success. There’s more time given to their stories than those who initially appear on the game show. There’s a lot of manipulation and sanctimony used when telling their stories, though, which becomes more and more prevalent.
‘Contestants’, aka willing guests, off themselves in a manner of their choosing – be it drowning, electrocution, hanging or even seppuku – the more entertaining, the better seemingly becomes the network's vision. It’s not quite Saw, however, and Rogers isn’t Jigsaw (Sylvia certainly isn’t Billy…) but the acts are imaginative and fairly brutal. The show itself is sold very well, with its use of ‘sob story’ pre-recorded interviews playing to the viewers, the dramatic music, hushed tones of the Ryan Seacrest-type host, it’s a believable premise for a shows execution.
The acting is fine, no real standouts and no duds. Duhamel looks every inch the US TV host, with perfect hair and teeth. Famke Janssen snarls through her scenes and Sarah Wayne Callies does her doctor thing once more (thanks, Prison Break). Esposito removes himself from his drug days of Breaking Bad and is very decent in his role as the desperate family man. Simply put, it’s all very professional. The narrative is predictable and you’ll probably guess where it’s headed fairly early on, however, the arcs make sense and the emotional punch lands at the conclusion. Just. The motivations of Rogers seems to shift fairly abruptly and without a high-class performance powering it along, the resolution of his arc isn’t as satisfying as it maybe should have been.
The concept is interesting, even if it is a rehash of old ideas, and I enjoyed the premise and satire of it all. The writing and direction craved extra polishing to elevate the emotion and is the major factor preventing The Show from being very good. Instead, it’s simply just good.
September 16th 2017