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The Show (2017) Review

The Show is a 2017 drama about an unsettling look at reality T.V. where a disturbing hit game show has its contestants ending their lives for the public’s enjoyment.

It’s not a stretch to say that reality shows are less than real and have, since their inception, steadily deteriorated into combustible nonsense designed to create artificial conflict with little consequence beyond numbing entertainment where people will do absolutely anything to be famous. So it is that Giancarlo Esposito‘s The Show takes aim, looking to skewer the attitudes, and expose just how perverse it’s all become, though unfortunately, goes nowhere we’ve not been before.

On a hit reality show called “Married to a Millionaire”, host Adam Rogers (Josh Duhamel) is about to close the season as the rich bachelor stands ready to choose between two beautiful young women, already in wedding dresses. When he decides, the loser freaks, shooting and killing not only the bachelor but herself, live on the air, sending everything into frenzy, more so once Rogers goes on the networks’ morning show (hosted by an interesting uncredited cameo) and pulls a Howard Beale rant, denouncing his role and everyone who participated – including the audiences – for their deaths, earning nationwide acclaim for his honesty. Learning no lessons, network executive Ilana Katz (Famke Janssen) spots opportunity and crafts a new show called “This Is Your Death” where people commit suicide on air. Rogers agrees to host under his own terms, creating a fundraiser premise that is sure to shock.

On-screen death appears to be the final horizon when it comes to television entertainment, maybe an inevitability (and undoubtedly spoken of in secret studio board meetings). The idea is of course not new in cinema, with the likes of Death Race 2000 (1975) to The Running Man (1987) and as with these films, there’s certainly plenty of social commentary, especially aimed at the frightening way audiences, both in the studio and watching across the world not just embrace but celebrate the carnage. In the early stages, Rogers calls it cathartic, just what people need, a wake-up call everyone requires. Meanwhile, we meet Mason Washington (Esposito), a 55-year-old father of two who loses his jobs and is out of options, and Roger’s mentally unstable, drug-addicted nurse sister Karina (Sarah Wayne Callies) who treats cancer patients, both highly opposed to what’s happening on TV but finding nowhere else to go.

Esposito clearly has a message on his mind but goes well out of his way to make it so, the film devolving into a cheap exploitation of its own premise. Washington is an all too obvious archetype (his son is disabled and his daughter makes “Best Dad Ever” posters) a man of great integrity who meets up with one contrived hurdle after another, channeled down a path we all see coming (even if following the TV shows own premise, he’d never make it past one of them). Rogers also is far too transparent, running cold to his original motivations like a switch, turning ugly with very little reason. This is all the wrong way to handle the admittedly wide-open potential, refusing to expose the humanity of those in suffering, instead falling victim to the very faults it tries to expose. Sure, it tries to make a point about the escalation of it all but simply can’t give any of it any impact, tugging on emotional strings with precise calculation. What starts as a clever hook with loads of possibilities ends up an empty, unpleasant experience that fails to eviscerate like it intends, despite its ambitions.

The Show (2017) Review

Movie description: The Show is a 2017 drama about an unsettling look at reality T.V. where a disturbing hit game show has its contestants ending their lives for the public's enjoyment.

Director(s): Giancarlo Esposito

Actor(s): Famke Janssen, Josh Duhamel, Sarah Wayne Callies

Genre: Drama

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