30 Days (2005– )

TV Series  |   |  Documentary, Reality-TV
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An unscripted, documentary-style program where an individual is inserted into a lifestyle that is completely different from his or her upbringing, beliefs, religion or profession for 30 days.

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Title: 30 Days (2005– )

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3   2   1  
2008   2006   2005  
3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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 Himself - Host (18 episodes, 2005-2008)
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An unscripted, documentary-style program where an individual is inserted into a lifestyle that is completely different from his or her upbringing, beliefs, religion or profession for 30 days.

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15 June 2005 (USA)  »

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30 dni  »

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Quotes

Reverend Dr. Penny Davis: [talking about homosexuality and the Bible] I think God cares more about what we do with our resources than what we do with our genitalia.
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Spun-off from Super Size Me (2004) See more »

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Hosed down with political correctness and best taken with a grain of salt, but Spurlock makes "30 Days" a fun trip over the reality fence
24 September 2005 | by (www.liquidcelluloid.blog.com) – See all my reviews

Network: FX; Genre: Documentary, Reality; Content Rating: TV-PG - MA (occasionally strong language); Perspective: Contemporary (star range: 1 - 4);

Season Reviewed: 2 seasons

At this point, after "The Shield", "Nip/Tuck" and "Rescue Me", I am putty in the palm of FX's hand. HBO and Showtime - look out. This is the network that is poised to become the new home of quality television. "30 Days" is the network's first step away from scripted dramas and it is a generally successful addition to the line-up.

Created and hosted by Morgan Spurlock, this reality series and something of a spin-off from his entertaining, well made obesity exploration documentary "Super-Size Me". Each week Spurlock finds somebody who is willing to immerse themselves in someone else's life for 30 days - somebody who, like the ABC British remake "Wife Swap", is their polar opposite or is someone the media has told us that person should dislike. A Christian lives as a Muslim, a Christian lives as a gay man, gas-guzzling SUV lovers live off the grid and a man who lost his job to outsourcing takes takes one in India. See the pattern here? Even when we do meet an atheist, who wants "God" taken out of the pledge, living with a peaceful religious family (did Spurlock read my season 1 review?), the show flips its formula around and takes her side. We didn't need to see Spurlock's ACLU card to know where he stands.

But like in "Super-Size Me", Spurlock is fair and he doesn't look down on the participants or lecture to us too horribly. He comes off like more of an "awe shucks" inquisitor then a pit-bull hell bent on proving a hypothesis. Even his human subjects are sympathetic, if only because of how hard they are trying to make this unenviable situation work. That fairness and authenticity makes "30 Days" almost indistinguishably from every other "reality" show. It isn't trying to put something over on us or humiliate the participants. That is refreshing - which is quite the commentary on the state of reality TV.

The effect Spurlock's perspective does have on the show is that many of the experiments really only make sense in a vacuum. There is no explanation as to why people are on minimum wage or why Americans believe what they do about Islam, just that it happens and we need to fix it somehow. All episodes end with the same bleeding-heart message of tolerance and diversity and the two opposites becoming close friends

  • which is predictable. I'm not asking for "balance" here, just a


little more imagination in the topics.

In the best episodes, the experiments put us into a squeamish fear for the health of the subjects - such as "Outsourcing", "Binge Drinking Mom" and the best, "Minimum Wage" where Spurlock and his fiancé, Alex, themselves hit the streets of Detroit in what becomes a real trial for survival. "Minimum Wage" is exceptional TV. It was my hope that the rest of the season could match its intensity. But in the 2nd episode, an experiment to debunk hormone therapy, the concept is changed up all together and becomes more like "Penn & Teller: Bullshit".

With many of the results predictable, "Days" isn't about how it ends,but about the process - and actually getting to see how this life change slowly effects people is a quite a bit of fun. It is here when the show makes the same fundamental mistake that every other reality show does. As exceptional as the packaging is, the fact remains: real people aren't very interesting. The participants are admirable in their guts and Spurlock finds fairly interesting people to go through this, but even they are unable to carry the show for the whole hour.

Fortunately, Spurlock has planned for this. He uses the old documentary stand-by of animated sequences to move through quick educational vignettes and history lessons. Nothing profound, but they are informative enough to get everybody up to speed. Spurlock himself also pops up intermittently amid the experiments to do little experiments of his own, like going down to Mexico and trying to buy his own HGH or interviewing a parent whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver. The show comes back to life when Spurlock, or his fiancé (a game gal if there ever was one), appear back on the screen. Spurlock is a great host/tour guide: energetic, creative, funny, clever - all the things Michael Moore isn't. He pokes fun at his own mustache in the single funniest line of the season.

"30 Days" should be taken with a grain of salt and has clearly been sanitized for our politically correct protection (his depiction of media sacred cows as the gay man and the American Muslim is strictly by the book), it achieves what is no doubt the goal - to spark debate and discussion at home or at work and have a little fun in the process.

The show is restrained emotionally. On one hand it never degrades into sap, on the other hand Spurlock doesn't go full force and give us an emotional punch in the face some stories probably need. On the other hand it isn't manipulative. This is a slight show, but Spurlock makes it work. Plug it back into the reality/documentary genre it belongs in and it looks even better. I hope the show returns and would like to see Spurlock given the chance to really get creative with the experiments. Twist the knife a bit. The potential is there for a great product.

* * * /4


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