Series 7: The Contenders


Directed by: Daniel Minahan
Written by:Daniel Minahan
Starring: Brooke Smith, Marylouise Burke, Glenn Fitzgerald, Michael Kaycheck, Richard Venture, Merritt Wever
Released: May 31, 2001
Grade: A

Tired of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?  Sick of Survivor?  Bored with Big Brother?  Never fear because The Contenders is back with an all new series and six lucky contestants.  Drawn from a lottery, each contender is given a loaded handgun and they’re filmed 24 hours a day.  The game continues until just one person remains alive and first prize is better than anything money can buy - their life.

So let’s meet the contenders of series 7.  Two-time defending champion Dawn Lagarto (33) is eight months pregnant but she’s back to fight for her life again - current odds: even money.  Retired Indiana resident Franklin James (72) is a conspiracy theorist and could just be crazy enough to pull this off - current odds: 20-1.  Connecticut student Lindsay Berns (18) has teen support and her high SAT scores may compensate for her lack of experience - current odds: 9-5.  Tony Reilly (38) is an unemployed asbestos-remover and Jersey native whose marriage and life are on the rocks - current odds: 3-1.  Connie Trabucco (53) is a Californian ER nurse who despite being a devout Catholic, knows a thing or two about lethal injections - current odds: 5-1.  Jeffrey Norman (33) is an artist from Connecticut and is terminally ill with testicular cancer so has nothing to lose - current odds: 10-1.

Stay tuned because tonight the first contestant will be killed and a shock revelation will be uncovered.  All this and much more on Series 7: The Contenders.  Warning: Due to the graphic nature of the following program, viewer discretion is advised.

This hilarious spoof is one of the funniest films of the year.  Shot on a shoestring budget from writer/director Daniel Minahan, it pokes fun at television and the recent obsession with reality-based and expose-styled programs.  The film is shot mostly with handheld cameras and looks like a bad episode of Cops as we chase our contestants around.  Every time someone is interviewed, the camera slowly zooms in looking like something you’d see in a soap opera.  The narration and poorly made re-enactments will bring back memories of Hard Copy and Australia’s Most Wanted all over again.  The film even teases us every 10-15 minutes with previews of what’s to come (as if we were going to an add break and they want to hold our attention).

Last week I criticised 15 Minutes for its one-sidedness and it’s ironic that just one week later, I can talk about a film that does the job right.  Series 7: The Contenders doesn’t tell us that television has gone wrong.  If anything, it tells us that whilst often predictable, there are plenty of great ideas and concepts to be explored on the smaller screen.

So make sure you get home from work on time so as not to miss tonight’s Contenders 90-minute marathon where the final winner will be revealed.  Can Dawn defend for the third straight season or will a long-shot pull an upset?  The winner will be revealed...after this break.