I caught most of an episode of 30 Days last night. This is Morgan Spurlock’s new show on FX, in which he has people try doing something for a month; last night’s episode had a West Virginia Christian living as an American Muslim. It’s an interesting concept, and well put together, but I think that it undercuts the point by making it clear that they are trying to make a point. The way it was set up and presented made it clear that the goal was to show that most muslims have nothing to do with the kind of folks who fly airplanes into buildings, and that their religion is more closely tied to Christianity and Judaism than most Americans care to understand. All that is true, but the presentation didn’t make this look like a journey of discovery for the viewer, but mainly a journey of discovery for the participant down a path carefully arranged and displayed for the viewer. One wonders how much they will allow themselves to vary from the script, to not go follow the spin that the politics of the piece dictate. Even if events don’t follow that path, there is always much that can be done in editing when you have a month’s worth of footage and an hour of show.
For those who don’t get FX and thus haven’t seen much about the show: the first episode (which I missed) featured Morgan and his wife trying to live on a two minimum-wage income (and what a surprise, they found it to be hard), and the next episode has a conservative fellow going to live with a gay man in San Francisco.
A couple episodes where it is revealed that, say, some folks at a big corporation aren’t evil, or a different culture besides conservative American Christianity really is kind of vile and disgusting, or some other such thing would go a long way to letting the viewer believe the results that this show puts forth. (I’m not saying that such results would be correct, mind you, but they would suggest that the show doesn’t have the built-in bias.)
In other FX notes: Rescue Me seems focused on trying to bring the characters down even lower. It’s still well made, but there will reach a point where these efforts go beyond making a statement, go beyond building drama and comedy, and just become a form of schadenfreude. I hope they can steer clear before that is reached.