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What do we learn while watching Games People Play: New York, director James Ronald Whitney’s “reality series pilot ” cum feature film?
That fame whores will suffer and inflict any degradation to get on television? We already knew that. That producers will take advantage of fame whores to make a buck at their expense? Knew it. That you can find at least one person on the streets of New York City who will be willing to suffer or inflict any degradation, even without the promise of getting on television? Well, duh.
Games People Play sells itself with a simple premise: six New York actor/model/dancer/waiters — three men and three women — compete for a grand prize of ten thousand measly dollars by engaging in such pranks as convincing strangers to give them urine samples or join them in a hotel room for some naked song and dance. Interspersed are interviews with the contestants about their personal lives and why they want to compete in this contest.
Of course, the whole thing is a sham, which is obvious from the first twenty minutes when a couple hundred actors vie for spots on the “show ” by telling traumatic personal stories and having simulated sex on stage. At least that sequence has nudity — when the six “contestants ” tell their sob stories, you’re just stuck with a bunch of beginning level acting techniques (shredding Kleenex, picking at skin) showing their inner horror from sexual abuse, childhood disease, dead parents, and other Lifetime network trauma.
Whitney, who apparently thinks we’re all so stupid that we can’t see the unreality at the core of reality television, spends ninety minutes slapping the audience in the face with genitalia and lying to them. The show ends with a “twist ” that’s as unbelievable as the rest of the film, yet for all its artifice manages to reach a new low in crass, jaw-dropping self-absorption.
Games People Play has all the joy of a dip in a septic tank. If you have that big of a hankering to see flopping penises, rent a porn instead. It’s cheaper and less exploitative.