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Series 7: The Contenders is a 2001 film written and directed by Daniel Minahan that is a dark, violent satire of American Reality Shows.
Imagine a Reality Show where the goal is for its contestants to kill each other until only one person is left standing -- and that they have no choice in whether they compete or not. (Seriously: the moment a contestant finds out that they're chosen, they're marked for death.) Now imagine that it takes winning the show three times to be granted a full release from the show. This is the premise behind the reality show The Contenders.
The film follows the six contestants of the show's seventh season; it focuses mainly on contestants Dawn Lagarto (a two-time champion who is hoping to win her third and be granted freedom) and Jeffrey Norman (a terminally ill man who is also Dawn's former lover).
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Connie. Kindly old emergency room nurse -- until she expresses her contempt for the people who come in to her ER. And that's before she starts killing people.
- Chekhov's Gun: Or rather, Chekov's Safety Catch.
- Crapsack World: Seriously, people are getting drafted to be in a reality show where they murder each other.
- Deadly Game
- Goth: Dawn and Jeffrey in high school.
- Gun Struggle
- Hand Wave: Numerous background details, such as how The Contenders became powerful enough to clear what is essentially legalized murder as a form of television programming, are never revealed; the whole point of the film is that it's made up of what the show aired on TV, thus being only what the producers wanted the viewers to see.
- Humans Are Bastards
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game
- Le Film Artistique: Dawn and Jeffrey's terrible high school student film.
- Lottery of Doom: New contestants are chosen by a seemingly-random lottery involving Social Security numbers.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Lindsay's parents constantly telling her to leave the safety on is what gets her killed, as fumbling to switch it off gives Franklin ample time to beat her to death.
- Nobody Poops: Averted when Dawn catches Connie on the toilet.
- "On the Next...": This ends the film (and casts a totally different light on the climax).
- Pregnant Badass: Dawn. Eight months pregnant and extremely dangerous.
- "Previously On...": The film opens with the end of Series 6 of The Contenders (which is Dawn marching into a convenience store and plugging that series' last contestant).
- Reality Television: Pitch-black satire.
- Separated by a Common Language: Despite being an American film with an American cast, framed as an American realiy show called The Contenders, the film's title employs the British usage "series" to describe individual seasons of a television program (the film is, thus, following the seventh season of the show).
- Shout-Out: Daniel Minahan named the main character, Dawn Lagarto, after a childhood friend of his.
- Show Within A Movie: It's the central premise of the film.
- Slashed Throat
- Take a Third Option: Dawn and Jeffrey attempt this when they take the camera crew hostage and attempt to escape the show.
- Unreliable Voiceover: The narrator, played by Will Arnett, who also makes a cameo onscreen at the climax. What he is saying doesn't always match up with what we're seeing. The "dramatization" scenes also appear to be dishonest/faked.
- Additionally, the show's claim that the lottery is random seems highly dubious, since Dawn's third go-round takes place in her hometown and her old boyfriend is one of the other Contenders.
- Win Your Freedom: If a contestant wins the show three times, they're granted full freedom from the show. Dawn is offered this at the end.
- You Don't Want to Die a Virgin, Do You?: Lindsay's boyfriend invokes this in an effort to get her to put out. He fails.