Life Swap: An Engaging "30 Days"I'm halfway through the premiere, which reruns Sunday night at 11:05pm (ET) on FX. It's quite interesting so far.
by Aaron Barnhart
“30 Days” (10 p.m., FX)
This limited-run series featuring Morgan Spurlock of “Super Size Me” is a terrific addition to an all-too-rare breed of TV show, the social experiment.
Subjects agree to spend a month doing something they're unlikely to do outside the presence of cameras, starting with Spurlock, who moves to Ohio and tries to make ends meet on minimum wage.
Although this is the only test Spurlock submits to, he is an active part of all the shows. He's direct but not preachy, which will come as a surprise to those who thought he was self-consciously channeling Michael Moore in “Super Size Me.” For instance, when he finds out a 22-year-old co-worker is supporting four kids on $5.15 an hour, he calls it “unbelievable,” which it is, and then moves on.
Morgan and his fiancée, Alex, both get sick within the 30 days, but, like millions of working poor, they can't waste time feeling sorry for themselves. Easter is approaching, and Spurlock wants his niece and nephew to spend the holiday with them. Never mind the fact they are living in a temporary pad and flat broke. “30 Days” has an internal momentum that another experimental show, “Wife Swap,” didn't. Also, it takes place as much as possible in the real world.
The show coming up in two weeks is even more powerful. Dave, a Christian from West Virginia, agrees to live with Muslims in Dearborn, Mich., wear their garb, grow a beard and learn their prayers.
Spurlock has chosen his hamster well: Dave's distrust of Muslims is both superficial (because he knows jack about Islam) and runs deep (because of 9/11). Though being a Christian is important to him, his cultural references are from the movies.
He personifies the tension between American secularism and religious identity. Above all, he is willing to do almost anything, and Spurlock puts him through the hoops. At the end of 30 days you realize Dave isn't the only one who learned something. And why is it that shows like this never make it on PBS?
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