TV, it is a-changing in the Boob Tubers' household (and by household I mean shoebox-sized, mouse-ridden, pre-war apartment wedged between a happy ending massage parlor and a drug rehab center.) Jeanette and Viv decided to get DVR, and along with that magical recording device we also gained about 100 new channels. So far we've taped such gems as Buffy reruns, every episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation, and a Cosby Show episode that plays like propaganda for Bill's idea of the model black American citizen.
The most interesting product of our increasingly ludicrous cable package, though, is Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days. The show plays less like reality TV and more like serial documentary, with the ever-genuine Spurlock presenting us with thirty perspective-altering days in the life of himself or someone else. One episode featured a man whose job had been outsourced traveling to India to meet the people who now work for his former company. Another has an atheist mom live with a devout Christian family for a month. Spurlock avoids the sensationalist trappings of other such switcheroo programs (I'm looking at you, Wife Swap) and instead presents his subjects as nuanced individuals without the predictable stereotypes.
In the episode the Boob Tubers watched last night, Spurlock submitted himself to thirty days in a county prison. He roomed with convicted felons, ate in the prison cafeteria, and even volunteered to do 72 hours in solitary confinement. Spurlock is nothing if not an extremist, regularly inserting himself into deeply unpleasant situations, as in his somewhat obvious doc, Super Size Me.
This 30 Days piece was more effective than his anti-fast food film, though. We see Spurlock socializing with a series of men who clearly do not belong in prison: a schizophrenic dependent on the goodwill of another inmate, a young man detoxing from heroin, several good-natured guys who have never committed a violent crime. We learn about a system that not only fails to rehabilitate, but seems to instill behaviors that will only land these people in prison over and over again. And it drains millions of dollars from taxpayers. It's unsurprising, then, when we learn that the friends Spurlock made are back on drugs or in jail.
It's rare that the Boob Tubers will have a legitimate discussion about a TV show once it's over. A typical discussion begins and ends with "J.T. York is totally my Degrassi little brother!" or "What exactly does 'Danity Kane' mean?" But last night we actually talked about the prison system, addiction, and mental illness. 30 Days distinguishes the often-sleazy FX from the big networks in that it presents high-quality reality TV - who knew it was possible?
And on the topic of reality TV, tune in soon for Jeanette's take on Survivor's embrace of old-school segregation this upcoming season!