Review: The last reality show

Sweden was in the 90s a pionéer in developing reality TV, or what they call it; documentary-soap. It is perhaps fitting then, that The last reality show to end them all aired on TV6 in Sweden this spring.

Commissioned by and debuting on TV6, a minor channel in the Nordic TV3 network, The last reality show (original title; Den sista dokusåpan) is an 8-part sitcom that blends comedy and horror in order to parodize the reality TV genre. The first episode presents the participants of a Big Brother-like show, and we then follow their attempt to travel to the location of the recording of the show. Halfway there, their bus crashes into some crazy people, who turn out to be zombies, caused by a viral outbreak. The reality “stars” seek refuge in an abandoned cottage, only to find themselves surrounded by zombies.

While sounding similar in story to the UK sitcom Dead Set (2008), The last reality show actually manages to be what I feared it would not be; funny. A small channel like TV6 does not pour a lot of resources into original drama, but either the people behind it are very talented, or the producers have bigger plans. Everything from characters and story to genre knowledge and special effects are rather good for a small production, including a complete lack of respect for everything the reality genre has offered before. If you ever though that reality shows took themselves far to seriously or simply took up too much screen time for the common good of viewers, The last reality show sinks its teeth into every self-pretentious reality TV host and participant since cirka 1992. And bleeds them dry! I always thought that reality TV participants most of the time were morons, seeking 15 minutes of fame, but here they are again, as zombies, representing the lack of functioning brains that zombies suffer from. It isn’t the participants of The last reality show that are parodies of reality stars, but the zombies!

Parody is easy but to put a parody into a good story isn’t, but here, not only is the story a parody of several reality show concepts, but each and every character is also a parody of reality show participants in the sense that some characters are fictious and obviously written to send up their “real” counterparts, and some characters are actual “stars” of more or less successfull shows from SVT, TV4 or TV3. Except they are overdoing themselves in a way that makes you suspect they really are idiots! Self-parody can sometimes be confirmation. Even so, non-intentional comedy does not take the driver’s seat and the written comedy works very well, both on the story level and the character level.

Add to this a lot of zombie action, gore, effects and the horny fantasies of the camera assistant, and what you have is a fast-paced, spot-on parody of a genre that unfortunately remains on our screens, in spite of dying a decade ago. Just like zombies that rise from their graves, reality TV seems to never quite go away.

Rated 8 of 10.

Directed by Oskar Mellander.

Sweden, 2012.