Created by Morgan Spurlock
Morgan Spurlock first gained notoriety from his documentary film Supersize Me. I understood the hammered in your face message of the documentary but didn’t appreciate the combination of cotton candy MTV style and exploitative and propaganda based editing of the film. There were some bright moments in the film, some moments that meant something other than pounding us in the face with the obvious. The best moments in the film were in the middle when Spurlock investigated the effects of junk food on kids and showed how a school turned its attendees around with a simple change from junk food machines to fruit choices.
At any rate, I haven’t drank the Spurlock kool-aide so when I sat down to check out 30 Days Season 2 I didn’t have high expectations.
The basic concept of the series is that a person is placed in an unfamiliar situation for 30 days in hopes that a lesson will be learned. Cut within the episode will be further investigation of the week’s subject. Spurlock always hosts the show by introducing the situation and the people participating, and some weeks he himself participates.
The season kicks off with a militant border security guard moving in with a family of illegal immigrants. The guard interacts with the family living their lives right along with them including going through their daily struggles. By the end of the episode he still stands strong in his beliefs but he does care for the family he lived with, in particular the daughter who was trying to get into college. Other episodes include a man who loses his job to outsourcing traveling to India to live with a family that works in the company where his job went, and an Atheist moving in with a Christian family.
The thing that I most appreciate about this series is that the people go into each situation as real people and they come out the same way. They nearly always come out of the situation effected but they often also feel just as strongly in their beliefs as they did prior to the 30 day experiment. The episodes typically reveal the major problems with opposite factions in these kinds of situations: one side or the other is unwilling to listen, and both sides are often unable to properly articulate their feelings and their beliefs. Many times while viewing the episodes I wanted to scream at the TV, just say this or just say that.
What’s amazing is that my favorite episodes of the season were those that Spurlock himself participated in rather than just hosting. It’s amazing because I really didn’t care for his personality at all in Supersize Me. I think I disliked him in that film because it felt like he was trying to be this brilliant guy who had a need to teach me about something that is so obvious and if he ahs to teach me a lesson that is so obvious that he must thing I’m really ignorant. Add to that feeling his excessive ego and you get someone who’s fairly unlikable. On 30 Days he actually plays the part of someone trying to learn something rather than the smartest guy in the room. His ego still busts out during narration and in the intros but the concept is interesting enough that it rises above Spurlock’s ego and his ridiculous mustache.
30 Days isn’t perfect though. Each episode is cut with a bias toward the side upon which the show’s creator’s fall. It’s nowhere near as objective as they’d like you to believe. With that in mind, 30 Days is a fun experience, more fun and interesting than I expected.
The show is presented in standard full screen and it is shot in a documentary style on video. The style works for a show that’s usually pretty voyeuristic. The scenes shot with the families or in whatever the situation of the week is are often grainy and not well lit due to the immediacy of the scene. Other set up shots feature better lighting and less grain. The series is low budget so the presentation is too meaning there’s grain and many scenes just appear murky. It’s still very watchable and often the look adds to the reality of the situations being shown.
The audio presentation is also very basic. Dialogue gets covered sometimes and must be subtitled. The audio is slapped completely into the center channel and there’s no dynamic range. The intros and narration sound better than the reality segments. Be prepared for balance issues and distortion galore. As with the video the audio is just good enough.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
We were sent check discs for the season so I can’t comment on the packaging, so points off for that. There’s not a lot in the way of bonus features here. There are audio commentaries on the first and last episodes. The commentaries are interesting as they offer plenty of behind the scenes information and even some updates on the subjects of the two episodes. That’s all there is though.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Series 8/10
The Video 6/10
The Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10