The other side of the fence, or the tracks
What would it be like for someone to completely alter his life, becoming a part of something he vehemently opposed, for a 30-day stretch? Huckster-documentarian extraordinaire Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) posed that question last summer with his surprisingly informative and important reality TV show 30 Days, now out on DVD. By throwing everyday people into situations in which they tended not to have any rightful place, Spurlock managed a kind of education through often pratfall-ridden entertainment.
Highlights include a staunch Christian conservative cohabitating with a strict Muslim family; and Spurlock himself, with fiancée in tow, forced to relocate to Columbus, Ohio; take up minimum-wage employment—that’s $5.15 an hour—and live only within those meager means. Like his landmark 2004 documentary, Spurlock’s 30 Days brings relevant topics to the table in a fresh, entertaining way; hopefully, it’ll hook sheltered and impressionable viewers who could benefit from seeing other sides of the story for a change.
Truth be told, though, it’s doubtful that some of the participants—like the power consumers forced to live off the grid and the college party girl forced to endure her mother’s drinking binges—actually got much in the way of lasting insights from their experiences. But the real strength of 30 Days lies in its potential to affect countless viewers by forcing them to open their minds and talk about some issues. Sure, it has flaws, unsuccessful attempts and even vaguely shock-TV tactics, but given what else is on television nowadays, this sort of thing should be required programming for any network worth its salt. What a concept: a current-events newsmagazine show that people can actually take seriously! (Dateline NBC, I’m talking to you.)