A Gallic documentary about a fake TV quiz show in which contestants electrocute rivals to punish their wrong answers caused a media storm this week.
But filmmaker Christophe Nick’s “The Game of Death,” which bowed at Berlin’s EFM in Feburary, didn’t electrify viewers when it aired on pubcaster France 2 on Wednesday.
Despite making headlines around the world, it nabbed just 3.4 million viewers for a 13.7 share, which, nevertheless, made it the highest-rated docu on France 2 in the past 12 months.
The docu is based on a 1961 Milgram experiment at Yale, in which psychologist Stanley Milgram attempted to assess whether students would administer potentially lethal electric shocks to another person if asked to do so by an authority figure.
Nick, “Death’s” writer and producer, recruited 80 contestants who believed they were on a genuine gamer.
Urged on by a host, 81% of them were willing to administer potentially lethal electric shocks to fellow players in order to win. None knew the shocks were fake and the “contestants” were really actors pretending to writhe in pain.
That percentage is even higher than the 65% of people willing to electrocute victims in the Yale experiment.
That suggests to Nick that gameshow contestants are willing to do more or less anything for fame and fortune.
Some viewers were clearly discomfitted by “Death’s” reality check. The Gallic blogosphere rapidly filled with angry comments denouncing Nick’s sensationalistic approach.
And it sent shock waves through the media.
Aside from the Gallic media, hundreds of international outlets around the world picked up the story ranging from the BBC in the U.K. to Time and the Washington Post Stateside.
The publicity has been good for French sales outfit Rezo, which is reporting strong interest from buyers and early sales on “Death.”
(John Hopewell in Madrid contributed to this report.)