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Series 7: The Contenders

Year: 2001
Director: Daniel Minahan
Writer: Daniel Minahan
The most brilliant (and brilliantly depicted) satire of reality TV so far.

The Contenders is a TV show where six strangers are given guns and have to hunt each other down in a fight to the death.

Among those chosen is reigning champ Dawn - now eight months pregnant and hardened into an urban warrior.

Series 7 is the latest round, set in the town where Dawn grew up. A more varied cast of characters could hardly have been assembled, and from there the digs at reality TV are non-judgmental but razor sharp, ranging from the funny to the shocking.

Complete with teasers and idents for what's coming up after the next commercial break, dramatisations for what hasn't been caught on camera and an America's Most Wanted-style narration of the action, it could easily be mistaken for a real show. Even more so because of the realism of the performances - from their stalking each other like hunters to the heartfelt interviews about shared pasts, hopes and fears - as if they were contestants on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

The video camera work is astounding, and the production and characters so realistic it makes you wonder how much was scripted and how much was adlibbed. Spot on in every respect, and the best social satire of the past few years.

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