Monday, July 11, 2005

Walking In Another Man's Shoes

Long overdue is interesting, thought-provoking television and Morgan Spurlock, the guy who brought us Super Size Me, has heeded the call. I applaud the Fox cable channel, FX, for taking on Spurlock's new documentary-style television show "30 Days". Reality television with human decency, Spurlock gets an American to volunteer to live in a VERY different, and challenging, setting for 30 days.

In the first episode, Morgan and his girlfriend lived on minimum wage for 30 days. I missed that one though and, if you have it recorded, please let me know. Luckily, a friend e-mailed her group about another episode, which I did get the chance to see. A White, Christian evangelical from West Virginia is sent to Dearborn, Michigan to live as a Muslim for 30 days. He went to the mosque, learned Arabic, learned to pray, etc. An imam at the mosque answered his questions. Of course, he did not convert, but it was really neat to see an otherwise rigidly closed mind slowly open to something new over 30 days.

Last night, I caught the re-run of last week's episode in which a White, Christian former Army guy from Michigan is sent to live in the Castro district of San Francisco (Ed, the gay roommate, calls the Castro the gayest neighborhood in the world). Feeling outnumbered, Ryan made friends early, telling people he thought they were sinners, that they should not be allowed in the military, etc. The usual stuff. For the next 30 days, he attended a gay church, got a job at a specialty foods store and learned all there is to know about wine and cheese and played on the gay team in a softball league. I won't give away all the details of the show, but sufficed to say, he admittedly went home a far more loving and tolerant person than when he got there.

This Wednesday, two city folk will be sent to live without the comforts of home. Here's the description of that episode

Two 30-year-old professionals who are friends and typical Americans—i.e., ravenous consumers of fossil fuels such as gas and electricity—go ‘back to the future’ and learn to live without the natural resources that will be depleted from our earth in the not-too-distant future. To do this they’ll uproot themselves and move to an ‘eco village’ in Missouri to live 100% OFF THE GRID. As they set up house in a former 3,000 bushel grain bin, they will sustain themselves on a clean power such as solar and wind, recycle all their waste (both food and human), live in a car-free culture, grow and eat only organic foods and conserve their water use with solar showers and rain-catch systems. Can these fossil fuel addicts wean themselves from their consumptive habits without their lives falling apart? Will they thrive in a community that is the total opposite their New Jersey neighborhood? And will the ecological solutions they learn stick once their Thirty Days are up?
Spurlock and FX should be thanked for making television human again. With all the crap that is produced and clogs the airwaves, 30 Days is an oasis of intelligence and humanity. It makes true the old addage that you cannot judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.

(In L.A., it's on Wednesday night at 10:00 p.m.)
http://www.tv.com/index.php?type=2&show_id=36402§=photos&pg_pics=3

10 Comments:

At 9:56 AM, July 11, 2005 , Anonymous sctrojan95 said...

I think that show is great!! One of the few shows on TV actually worth watching ... and you know, if the II is voluntarily watching a TV show, that proves my point. I missed the episode with the WV'ian being immersed in Muslim culture ... I'm sure they'll re-run these episodes at some point and I'll catch it then.

The "minimum wage" episode was a real eye-opener. Could you imagine having to live like that?

Morgan has done a great job on this series ... none of the scenarios seem contrived or disingenuous. You actually see people getting really uncomfortable in situations and not getting bailed out. I only wish I could see some of the stuff they probably had to cut out of each episode ... I'm sure there was definitely some good stuff we missed. The only reality show worth a damn, in my opinion. I think I need to go rent "Super Size Me".

30 Days is on Wednesdays at 10pm on FX here on the East Coast as well.

 
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