Sunday, July 13, 2008


Choosing Our Victim

As reality television become staple programming, we have contestants playing games around the world, or just doing so on an island. We have those that propel some into instant fame upon winning a singing competition, and audience participation is key if ratings are to rocket through the sky. Live! allows the audience a little of behind the scenes action in a mockumentary that takes a look at how such programmes get conceived with always an eye looking at the ratings, and the other eye looking at potential revenue stream in the form of selling air time to advertisers.

Eva Mendes, who also serves as executive producer, stars as Katy, a network station's programming manager out to look for the next big thing to save their flagging station ratings amongst the CBS and the NBCs. In one brainstorming session, the thought of Russian roulette got bounced around, and given the nature of the game - where one puts a loaded gun to the head and pulls the trigger - it borders on simple human decency, and who would want to allow someone getting killed live on air being put out by their station?

And there's where the mockumentary kicks into full gear for the first hour, where we follow Katy (conveniently she has an indie film crew following her in a bid to make their own documentary) around the office and engage in some heavy politicking and lobbying of her brainchild through departments such as marketing, sales, legal as represented by corporate counsel Don (Andre Braugher) and even to convince the network presidents herself. And it is indeed interesting as you see all the coporate backstabbing, back-biting, and elevator pitches get delivered with conviction to sell something as radical as this, with the stroking of egos constantly being proven to be effective.

We also get to be chummy with the would be contestants, as we dig a little into their backgrounds as diverse as an extreme sports athlete, to a farmer struggling to keep his family afloat, from an actress wannabe, to a gay Latino looking for some self-respect. It played out akin to the American Dreamz, but toning down on the cheesy comedy aspects of it. Naturally you expect some stereotyping here, but one thing common with everyone is, so long as you're holding a loaded gun to your head, all bets are off and only a pull of the trigger, if they survive, will decide if they get to stay alive and walk away with the prize money of US$5 million. Which makes you wonder, would you risk it all to do the same, for the same amount of money?

The last moments of the film provide that debut episode, and truth be told, it is rather interesting to watch, playing to our voyeuristic tendencies which make reality TV so popular these days. It's openly admitting to satisfying our blood lust, with death on screen for the masses, like old styled gladiatorial fights, or public executions where you deliberate attend just to see what you've come to see. Those unfamiliar with how live or game shows are produced, get a look behind the scenes as well in the coordination of technical expertise and manipulation to milk shots of the moment, for the goggle box audience.

While this is fiction through and through, I wouldn't help but shudder if one day we do have such game shows being put live on the air, packaged as entertainment. Written and directed by Bill Guttentag (who brought us the documentary Nanking), this film does seem rather plain sailing, until of course a shocker of a finale which you probably didn't see it coming, re-emphasizing of course, whether TV violence has a negative aspect to daily lives.

Live! is an exclusive showcase at GV Vivocity Cinema Europa

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