TV series created by Morgan Spurlock
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Video: 4:3 full screen, color
Audio: DD stereo, English
Subtitles: English, Spanish & Captioned in English
Extras: Audio commentary on selected episodes, “Diary Cam” for every episode
Length: approx. 270 minutes (Extras: 80 minutes +) (2 DVDs)
Spurlock was the writer, director and star of the documentary Super Size Me, which got him an Academy Award nomination for best documentary. His cable TV show is a clever type of reality show that is 100% more intelligent and worthwhile than any of the other reality shows. Spurlock deals here with some of the most difficult problems in American society today. He follows the misadventures of ordinary people who agree to live in a completely different situation from what they are used to, for a 30-day period. In a way, Spurlock is continuing his focus on size – his subjects in these one hour episodes are trying someone else’s life on for size.
There are six episodes here from the series which ran on the FX cable channel last summer – three to a disc. The series premiered with Morgan and his girlfriend demonstrating how difficult life is for those working at minimum wage. They more to Columbus, Ohio, find a cheap apartment and start jobs at the minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. They quickly find how difficult and wearing it is to live life on the edge like that. Things can turn serious when there is an illness or injury and no health insurance. When Morgan’s nephew and niece come to visit things become almost impossible. The episode brings home the disgrace of the Federal minimum wage not having been raised to meet inflation for a decade.
Muslims and America is another episode, in which a devout 33-year-old Christian man from South Carolina goes to live, share and worship with a Muslim family in an Islamic community in Dearborn, Michigan – the largest concentration of Muslims in the U.S. He gets his outlook expanded with the assistance of an Islamic Imam as well as an Arabic language teacher. He soon learns that his ideas about Muslims and their faith were seriously off base, and at the same time experiences the prejudice against himself due only to his appearance. A somewhat similar story of a man modifying his formerly inflexible ideas about other ways of life from his is told in Straight Man in a Gay World. A homophobic young man is brought from the South to the Castro district of San Francisco to be the roommate for a month of a gay resident there. He meets with the lesbian pastor of a gay Castro-district church to learn more about this misunderstood minority. A job in a Castro deli develops him as an instant cheese and wine expert. He goes thru some teeth-gritting moments for sure, and some of his learning experiences are quite hilarious. In the end he realizes his brick-walling stance against diversity is unproductive and leaves with an appreciation of people has has met.
The other episodes deal with an athlete trying to reverse the aging process with a special drug regimen, a mother concerned about the pressures to drink on her college-age daughter goes on a 30-day drinking binge, and a pair of typical American consumers must live for 30 days without using fossil fuels, including electricity. Some of the video clips are a bit primitive, such as the “diary cams” where the subjects share their dilemmas directly with the camera in their rooms, and night scenes get grainy due to no special lighting, but in general the video transfer is watchable and the content is so far above most TV of this type, in its serious purpose, that it’s a pleasure to watch.
– John Sunier