Morgan Spurlock’s “30 Days”

Ever since we first saw his Oscar-nominated documentary “Super Size Me”, Christine and I have been huge fans of writer/director Morgan Spurlock. So much so that when the third season of his kick-ass show “30 Days” premiered on FX two weeks back, we were kinda glued to the Tivo.

If you haven’t watched yet, the concept is deceptively simple, each week someone is chosen to live in another person’s shoes for 30 days.

Spurlock has appeared in several episodes himself — most recently in this season’s first episode which found him working in a Virginia coal mine for 30 days — but usually he picks someone whose lifestyle and belief systems are exactly opposite of the life they will be living for 30 days.

Previous seasons have seen a born-again Christian living in a Muslim household, a homophobic straight man living with gays in San Francisco, an outsourced American tech worker living in India and working in a call center, and a hard-core minuteman from Texas living with a family of illegal immigrants in Los Angeles. If you think that sounds like a juicy set-up for a show…you’re right!

But while most other networks would tart everything up for the sake of the drama, FX has pretty much given Spurlock free reign to make “30 Days” into something truly unique. Not so much a show as a series of insightful, funny, and sometimes enormously-moving one hour films, “30 Days” is not to be missed.

Some people have criticized Spurlock for injecting himself into the drama too much and becoming kind of a Michael Moore-lite, but I could not disagree more. I mean, sure, sometimes Moore’s presence in his own films is distracting and tends to turn the proceedings into the Michael Moore show, but Morgan Spurlock has the exact opposite effect onscreen.

Whether it’s his goofy, everyman quality, or the fact that he just seems more likable than Moore, Spurlock has way more soul as a “character” and lacks the obvious political agenda that drives Moore towards some of his more outlandish stunts. That’s not to say Spurlock doesn’t try to steer the proceedings a bit — which of course, he does — but the thing I like about “30 Days” is that it just feels more heartfelt and real than anything Moore has churned out in recent years.

And better yet, Spurlock never tells you what to think, but rather presents the information to you “as is” and lets you decide what you think, which, hello, is kind of what a documentary is supposed to do, right?

Future episodes this season tackle such hot-button issues as gay families, anti-gun activism, life on an Indian reservation and this Tuesday’s episode which finds a hard-core hunter from Chapel Hill, NC moving into a home of Peta-loving vegans for 30 days.

While those all sound kind of awesome, I have to say that last Tuesday’s episode — which featured retired pro-football great Ray Crockett confined to life in a wheelchair for 30 days — was probably one of the best hours of television we’ve seen in years. If you can find it in repeats, WATCH IT!

Crockett’s struggles adjusting to life in the chair are one thing, but the wheelchair-bound people he met and befriended during his 30 days were just amazing. The paraplegic counselor working with the recently paralyzed, the tough-as-nails wheelchair rugby team featured in the documentary “Murderball” and most poignantly, the young girl recently confined to a wheelchair after a horrible accident.

The look on Crockett’s face as he sits in on the girl’s rehabilitation sessions is heartbreaking, and I defy you not to cry when she pulls herself up in bed for the first time since her accident. I’m not kidding, folks, this is cable television at its finest…really beautiful stuff.

The first two seasons of the show — which I highly recommend — have recently been released on DVD and the third season of “30 Days” airs Tuesday nights at 10pm on FX. Spurlock was quoted recently in Entertainment Weekly as saying that this Tuesday’s episode (the hunter/vegan family) is the best one of the season, so…what better time to check out “30 Days” for yourself?

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Morgan Spurlock’s “30 Days”

  1. I didn’t know Season 3 started already (With Nip/Tuck on hiatus, we’re not watching anything on FX and must have missed the commercials).

    We enjoyed the first two seasons, so we’ll be adding this to our Season Pass pronto.

  2. yeti9000

    Yeah, dude, you should totally check it out! And make sure and track down the first two episodes too in reruns…the wheelchair one is a classic, man!

  3. Matt

    I thought “30 Days” was the sequel to that Sandra Bullock Movie about rehab.

  4. yeti9000

    No, that’s “28 Days Later”…

  5. So, one Wednesday I arrived at Priscilla’s for our weekly Stitch and Bitch. As I approached the door there was a guy sitting outside who looked familiar…by the time I got past him I realized it was Morgan Spurlock. As I sat there waiting (Nic & Christine were late), I thought, who do I know that will know who this guy is no less care. Just as that thought passed thru my head he came in the door, put his keys and portfolio on the table next to me and nodded. On his way out I got a smile and gave one back….not five minutes after he left Christine came in with apologies for her lateness….something about Tom and dinner. I figured I’d tell her, she would at least know who he was…boy was I surprised at her excitement.

    Ah, the joys of Priscilla’s…So glad we’re going back there!

  6. Melissa

    Just watched the hunter/PETA ep. Kinda glad I didn’t eat any meat today! This is such a cool show; I’m waiting for Netflix to send me some of the first two seasons so I can catch up. Did you see his new movie?

  7. yeti9000

    No, we somehow missed Spurlock’s Osama movie, but tonight’s “30 Days” was pretty damn awesome.

    The PETA people were a little crazy for my taste, but the way the guy changed over the course of the show was very moving…and that baby cow…wow, don’t get me started…sad!

  8. Jane

    At one time I liked Morgan Spurlock, but more and more I find that the arguments that he presents are incredibly one-sided. As a person that works in the field of pharmaceutical research and a former student of animal science with a focus on dairy research, I was so disappointed. Animal research is great as an early phase of drug testing. The human models mentioned during the episode are great in later trials, but costly. People should know that the species selected for various types of drugs and modes of delivery are chosen to act as preliminary models not final phase models and that on a more personal note are cared for by their technicians. The chief responsiblity of an animal tech is animal welfare and this is not taken lightly. Often someone that knows little about proper handling of animals may find methods to be cruel, but people should educate themselves. I mean do you really think that a 600 or 700lbs animal even blinks when it is slapped on the rump. Animal testing is currently vital in the field of pharmaceutical research, but it will not always be the way. Companies do their best to use fewer and fewer animals and in the future, because of the strides that they are making scientifically NOT the constant harassment of animal protesters, animal testing in its current state will probably no longer be necessary.
    As far as “factory farms” or CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), I have mixed feelings. Once again people need to educate themselves on proper farming practices. Yeah you have “bad eggs” that do things that are unethical, but there are also farming operations that are innovative, environmental stewards that run reputable operations. REALLY PEOPLE START THINKING FOR YOURSELVES DON’T LET SOME FANCY FILMMAKER WITH EDITING ABILITIES THINK FOR YOU!

  9. yeti9000

    Wow, you bring up some good issues, Jane. I’m sure there are plenty of ethical animal scientists out there, but just like with everything, the unethical scientists are the one’s that get the press.

    I personally am very conflicted on the issue of animal testing. On the one hand, I am all for it if it helps cure human diseases like cancer, but when animals are used to test the safety of household cleaners to boost the bottom lines of greedy multinational corporations…well, that’s where I have a problem with it.

    I do think the PETA folks came across as a bit crazy — that talk of equating animal scientists with Nazi’s was just plain ridiculous! — but I do think there is a rhetoric-free middle ground that both sides can hopefully work towards in the years to come. Or at least I hope there is…

  10. Elaine Vigneault

    “Spurlock never tells you what to think, but rather presents the information to you “as is” and lets you decide what you think”

    Sorry, but I disagree with your assessment. He frames an issue and that guides the viewer. He’s not completely unbiased.

    For example, in the animal rights episode, he joked that animal rights was about giving animals the right to vote. He’s not a vegetarian or vegan. There’s no real reason to assume he has any less bias than the hunter. You’ve made a wrong assumption that Spurlock is unbiased.

    Eating meat is not a neutral political standpoint – it’s a conscious choice to make animals live, breed, and die according to human whims (like taste buds). Eating animals is a political act.

  11. What’s all this back and forth about bias? I consider the bias to be a very good thing!

    Woven fabrics are more elastic and more fluid when cut in the bias direction, as opposed to the on-grain direction. This gives garments more elasticity and drapability, accentuating body lines and curves more effectively.

  12. Hey Tomas and Christine,

    I thought you and your readers might be interested to know that Inside Media at The Paley Center has a show about 30 Days now available on iTunes.

    Here is the link: http://ax.phobos.apple.com.edgesuite.net/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewTVSeason?i=286584556&id=285977384&s=143441

    About Inside Media at the Paley Center’s 30 Days:
    The 30 Days executive producers discuss the making of the entertaining—and enlightening—documentary series. Using the time construct from his hit documentary Super Size Me, creator/executive producer Morgan Spurlock asks Americans to spend a month experiencing something for which they have no tolerance or knowledge. Spurlock, along with executive producer R. J. Cutler, spent an evening at The Paley Center for Media discussing the sometimes controversial show. Rebecca Faez (director of administration, The Paley Center for Media, Los Angeles) welcomes the audience and introduces Daily Variety’s Stuart Levine, who moderates. Contains Explicit Language.

    Or, you can add the iTunes Button linking to the film with the HTML generated here: http://ax.phobos.apple.com.edgesuite.net/WebObjects/MZStoreServices.woa/wa/itmsLinkMaker
    Enter “Paley Center” and select TV Shows
    (For larger, customizable Apple iTunes Buttons, download these: http://www.docurama.com/digitalassets/ituneslogo.zip)
    FYI, you can also become an iTunes affiliate to earn a 5% commission on this and other refered sales: http://www.apple.com/itunes/affiliates/

    Thank you for considering sharing the news with your readers!

    Best,
    Marinell Montales
    New Video Digital
    902 Broadway, 9th Fl
    New York, NY 10010

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