18 June 2008

"[T]he best hour of television you're ever going to see in your life"

The title captures precisely how Morgan Spurlock, the auteur behind the well-known documentary Super Size Me, described the third episode of the third season of his FX show "30 Days." For those unfamiliar with the format, it essentially follows the formula of Super Size Me, placing a person into some unfamiliar or extreme living condition for 30 days. Past episodes have included requiring a worker from an abortion clinic to live at a pro-life women's shelter, requiring an atheist to live with a Christian family, and following Spurlock and his wife as they lived on minimum wage for a month. Last night's episode found a red state, red-meat-eating redneck from my own home state, NC, going to CA to live with vegan PETA members and work on in an farm animal rescue operation.

While Spurlock's self-assessment is clearly hyperbolic, "30 Days" has become one of my favorite hours of television ever. I love "Lost" and "The Office" as much as the next guy, but in my opinion, few shows on television have the ability to be as thought-provoking and interesting, instead of pandering to our hunger for simple, don't-bother-me-with-those-"idea"-things entertainment. Spurlock certainly has a poorly-concealed liberal bias (which, incidentally, I don't mind), but the primary message of the show seems to be the promotion of tolerance and inclusiveness, rather than something overtly political.

I tried to imagine a Mormon episode (either a Mormon going to live with an Evangelical family or vice versa) but frankly, despite what you might think, I doubt it would be very interesting. The groups have far too much in common as far as everyday living habits and values for there to be much friction, which is what the show thrives on of course. An episode devoted to someone living among polygamists has been suggested on the show's website, and while that would definitely be worth watching, I seriously doubt that the FLDS would be willing to voluntarily endure such heavy and constant scrutiny and exposure at this particular moment.

You can learn more about the show here.
If you want a short list of particularly strong episodes, my personal favorites are the following: Immigration (season 2, episode 1), Straight Man in a Gay World (season 1, episode 4), and last night's Animal Rights (season 3, episode 3).

Other thought-provoking television I enjoy: Frontline- pretty much the gold standard as far as TV documentaries in my opinion, but sometimes a little hit-or-miss as far as subject matter (I'm a little tired of the war on terror- related episodes). They were, however, co-sponsors of last year's The Mormons.
Also, if you need a book for your book club, try The Trouble with Diversity.

1 comment:

  1. What's up, Adam? I just got back from some training in the woods and watched the PETA 30 Days episode that I had Caroline tivo while I was gone. Once again, we completely agree. 30 Days is one of the best shows on television. It gives people a very unique chance to see complex issues from both sides, while at the same time urging viewers to re-evaluate their own biases and how those biases impact their lives.