Seven Days ChatNav in Broadcast

Here’s the Leader in this week’s Broadcast by Lisa Campbell

A new vision of reality TV | 7 October, 2010 | By Lisa Campbell

Seven Days isn’t rating, but its interactivity makes compelling viewing.

“People never know what is wrong with them and other people see it right away.” Just one of the many poignant lines in the current series of BBC4’s Mad Men, but one which could so easily have been written for Seven Days, which launched that same evening on Channel 4.

It sums up just what’s so compelling about the new reality show – the fact that participants see themselves through the eyes of others and are forced to challenge perceptions of the self.

So far, so Big Brother, you might say, but unlike BB, the outside world is allowed in, with members of the public giving direct feedback on actions and behaviour. What’s interesting is the immediate and discernible impact this has on the subsequent behaviour of those involved. As far as social experimentation goes, it makes Big Brother look more like Watch With Mother.

Yes, the first episode was dull, but it was about establishing the characters. The second episode was when the genius emerged. From the bizarre walk-on-part of a member of the public in the opening café scene (initially, it felt like a set-up, but anyone hanging around Notting Hill can be captured by the cameras) to the public as puppet-master, it’s a concept that messes with the mind.

The ‘chatnav’ social media element of the project makes for a fascinating, often surreal watch. So, for example, you’re on a laptop reading comments while watching the show, watching a character on the show on their laptop responding to those comments (still with me?).

It’s intriguing to see how the contestants respond to the scrutiny; how bizarre it is, for instance, to watch an obviously ‘smug’ character relay her shock at being described as such. Or how amusing to watch those facing criticism suddenly trot out the sob stories – an echo of the cynical ploys adopted by real-life celebrities.

C4 is bound to be disappointed with the ratings after marketing the hell out of the show, and while it’s far from perfect (a location outside London might have been nice), it should be applauded for having the guts to experiment, to learn lessons from it and to continue trying to push the boundaries of cross-platform content.

Lisa Campbell is editor of Broadcast

{courtesy of Broadcast}

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