If you watch any reality TV you know that each program has a twist. If I reveal the twist that makes this film so brilliant, I’ll ruin it. I’ll just say that if the idea of a reality game show featuring tons of nudity, the most personal of confessions and the duping of innocent people appeals to you — watch this film. Then watch it again. Even if you loathe reality TV, this film has something to offer.
The premise of this game show is fairly simple. Six actors are chosen to perform various stunts, and the one with the most points at the end of seventy-two hours wins ten grand. These stunts range from getting clean urine samples from folks off the street to seducing delivery boys in the fastest time possible.
But who is being tricked here?
Viewers look in as the actors get women to strip down on the casting couch. We watch as Elisha Imani Wilson describes how she was molested, and we witness Dani Marco vomit into a toilet as she talks about her fight with bulimia. The actors’ most painful moments are being exploited (much like any other reality show), and they are letting it happen … for $10,000.
I like some reality shows. I find them to be fascinating insights into the human condition. One of my favorite reality television moments took place on NBC’s short-lived “Spy TV,” the network’s take on “Candid Camera.” In one segment, contestants believed they were trying out for a reality television show. To make it to the final stage, they had to eat human flesh (which was really just pork). “Games People Play: New York” doesn’t take things to that extreme, but it does require its participants to strip themselves bare both physically and mentally, which can be far more disturbing than cannibalism.
And I couldn’t stop watching.
The questions raised by this film can be unsettling at the very least, but it presents itself with no apologies, and that is why it is so successful. It will also spark some serious conversations, and it will make you question your entertainment choices.
Is it just a game show? Perhaps for a few brain dead people. For others, though, this is a serious look at the corrupting influences of fame, money and entertainment, and what it says about us may be even more damning than what it says about its participants.