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Series 7: The Contenders (2001)

A TV program selects people at random to kill one another for fame and their freedom.


Daniel Minahan


Daniel Minahan
3 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Brooke Smith ... Dawn
Mark Woodbury Mark Woodbury ... Dairy Mart Clerk
Michael Kaycheck ... Tony
Marylouise Burke ... Connie
Richard Venture Richard Venture ... Franklin
Donna Hanover ... Sheila
Merritt Wever ... Lindsay
Glenn Fitzgerald ... Jeff
Angelina Phillips Angelina Phillips ... Doria
Tom Gilroy ... Dawn's Cameraman
Nada Despotovich Nada Despotovich ... Michelle
Stephen Michael Rinaldi Stephen Michael Rinaldi ... Craig
Alex Yershov Alex Yershov ... Nathan
Danton Stone ... Bob
Joe Barrett Joe Barrett ... Doctor


Ever seen the show "Survivor" and wished they would just start killing each other?? Series 7 literally gives its contestants the guns. The film is not merely a satire on reality TV. It is an example of just how far people will shamelessly go for fame. 6 contenders are pitted against each other in a no holds barred, kill or be killed contest. The reigning champ is Dawn, a hard-nosed, mother-to-be. We go back and forth between Dawn and the other 5 contenders to see if someone can dethrone Dawn and become the new Champion. What is the prize? How are the contestants picked? These questions are not as important as asking yourself how shameless has our society become? Written by Jeff Mellinger <jmell@uclink4.berkeley.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Standings Are In The Obituaries. See more »


Comedy | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violent content and language | See all certifications »


Official Sites:

Sensational Productions





Release Date:

25 May 2001 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Series 7 See more »

Filming Locations:

Danbury, Connecticut, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$28,844, 4 March 2001

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Writer/Director Daniel Minahan's childhood friend, Dawn Lagarto, is given a "Special Thanks" credit. He originally wrote the story using her name for the main character. When it came time to start filming the producers had legal concerns regarding the use of a real person's name, but actress Brooke Smith felt an affinity for the name and wanted to retain it for her character. Minahan called the real Dawn Lagarto and got her blessing to use the name. The real Dawn Lagarto is not an unwed mother, has never participated in a reality TV series, and has never killed anyone. See more »


The truck Tony drives off with the baby in is a Ford Ranger (a mid-size truck). The stock footage of a chase from a helicopter shows a truck that is supposed to be Tony's, but is now a full-sized Chevy. Back in the close-ups, it's a Ford Ranger again. See more »


[After taking a movie audience hostage]
Dawn Lagarto: Bring my baby here or else innocent people are gonna die!
[Audience members applaud and cheer.]
Dawn Lagarto: That means YOU, ASSHOLES!
[Audience shuts up.]
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the title credits, a warning appears "Due to the graphic nature of this program, viewer discretion is advised." See more »

Alternate Versions

The DVD version includes deleted scenes that are viewed seperately. They include:
  • The reunion with Dawn's family is extended.
  • A scene of Franklin refusing the radio/GPS rig and explaining why he lives in a lead-lined shack.
  • A scene where Franklin is looking in the mirror and mentally preparing himself before he receives the note.
  • Franklin's speech in the mall is extended.
  • A scene with Connie's priest, where he explains in an interview that he's a fan of the show, that he recognized Connie's voice in the confessional, and that he hopes that she confesses for the two murders before she herself dies.
  • 'Man-on-the-street' interviews.
  • The 'real' ending, which we are told in the film that the footage was destroyed and then are presented a dramatization of the events. The 'real' ending is, when presented with the choice of killing one another, Jeff and Dawn put the guns down, run out of the theatre, were they meet a crowd of disgruntled fans. The fans give chase after them and, after catching them entering their SUV, begin beating them, presumably to death. This explains why, at the end of the film, Doria is proclaiming that she's been framed and why Jeff survived.
  • An interview with Laura with Dawn's baby, where she renames the baby Dawn and says she's proud of her sister.
  • A PSA from Doria about checking for testicular cancer.
See more »


References The Real World (1992) See more »


Love Will Tear Us Apart
Performed by Joy Division
Written by Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner (as Bernard Summer), Stephen Morris,
and Ian Curtis
Published by Zomba Music Publishers Ltd. and Fractured Music
(administered in US and Canada by Zomba Enterprises Inc. ASCAP)
Courtesy of London Records by arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

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User Reviews

"Reality" to the Nth Degree
6 September 2002 | by jhcluesSee all my reviews

Fans of `reality' TV are going to love this one, and even those whose tastes run contrary to such offerings are going to find this indie film a riveting experience. Like `Survivor,' the name of the game here is, well...survival; but with one significant difference from any of the shows you've seen on television: The winner in `Series 7, The Contenders,' written and directed by Daniel Minahan, will be the only one from among the contestants still standing at the end of the show, meaning `alive.' Yes, that's right, the object of the game here is to eliminate the opposition, as in `kill' them-- by whatever method available. Guns, knives, bombs, blunt instruments, anything goes; whatever it takes to do in the other guy (or gal). And it ain't over till it's over, which means when five are dead, and only one remains.

Of the six in contention this week, the returning champion, with ten kills to her credit, is 30ish Dawn Lagarto (Brooke Smith), who also happens to be eight months pregnant. She'll be pitted against Connie Trabucco (Marylouise Burke), a nurse; Tony Reilly (Michael Kaycheck) a husband and father of three; Franklin James (Richard Venture), the oldest of the bunch; teen Lindsay Berns (Merritt Wever); and finally, Jeffrey Norman (Glenn Fitzgerald), an ex-boyfriend of Dawn's, who has his own reasons for being in the game. And so it begins; and the question now is, of the six, which will become the hunters, and which the hunted? Does Dawn stand a chance of putting five more notches on her scorecard? Or this week, will one of the other five prevail, and walk away with the cash? Or, more notably, be the `one' who is able to do so.

It was inevitable that this film-- or one like it-- would be made, given the way television has been saturated with `reality,' the past few years. And since it had to happen, at least it was born of, evolved and guided by the artistic capabilities of Minahan, who has crafted and delivered a gripping, thought provoking satire that reaches it's apex of effectiveness hours, or even days, after the film has ended; because for anyone with any scruples at all, this film will linger in the memory like a phosphene caused by rubbing the eye, and it'll take that long to even begin to sort out the myriad implications of it all. The obvious question/message of the film is, of course, just how far should/could/can society go in this direction before realizing the consequences of the moral turpitude `reality' shows must necessarily embrace to be successful. Minahan does not moralize overtly, however; rather, he very subtly plants the suggestion of what the next step in real life may be within the matter-of-fact presentation and context of his story. And he does it with such precision that it is not until much later that the full impact of it hits you, and it's then that you understand how extremely appalling and depraved the concept is when extrapolated to the nth degree, as Minahan so aptly illustrates here.

Minahan's approach may be more clever than imaginative, as his film plays out as if it were lifted from the negative of `Survivor' or one of it's clones. But it's cleverness at it's best. A film cannot seem this true-to-life and entirely natural without a lot of hard work that includes technical knowledge, an eye for detail and an impressive grasp of human nature; Minahan didn't just walk onto the set one day and crank out such an accurate duplication of a `reality' show. It begins with the astute insights Minahan weaves so incisively throughout his screenplay, and culminates in the way he translated it all to the screen. Watching this film is something akin to watching Jim Carrey early in his career doing Henry Fonda, or Kevin Spacey doing Christopher Walken or Pacino; it's the kind of professional impersonation/interpretation that just doesn't get any better.

What makes it so enthralling is that Minahan so succinctly captures that documentary look and feel of what has become a `genre' of television, and like the best of them, he lets you get to know the contestants-- through interviews and `mini-bios'-- before the bloodbath begins, so that you can pick your favorites and put your money on the one you think has what it takes to win. He creates a genuine `sporting event' atmosphere, which works at the time-- it puts you in the moment and draws you into the action-- but in retrospect, it makes all that has transpired and everything you've witnessed seem even more disconcerting (which is, of course, the idea). And you realize, finally, that you've been duped into accepting the unacceptable, and moreover, made to believe by some perverse rationalization of thought that it was all right; which in itself is a keen observation of the power of the medium through which it is proffered.

To make the `reality' convincing, the performances, of course, had to be convincing; and they are. Minahan extracts precisely what was needed from his actors to really sell the show, beginning with Brooke Smith's portrayal of Dawn. This is the central character of the film, so it was imperative that she be especially believable, and Smith pulls it off beautifully. As you watch her, you never get the feeling that you're watching an actor; in keeping with the documentary feel of the film, this is Dawn, a young, pregnant woman involved in a game of killing for cash. it's a solid performance, the kind of which is often overlooked or taken for granted precisely because it is so natural.

The supporting cast includes Donna Hanover (Sheila), Angelina Phillips (Doria), Nada Despotovich (Michelle) and Alex Yershov (Nathan). To call this film pure entertainment would be wrong; to call `Series 7, The Contenders' an entertaining indictment against moral sense and sensibility, however, would be accurate. It's one that's definitely going to make you stop and think; and consider. 7/10.

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