An Experiment in Madness
“There is a widespread belief that some things on television are “real” and some things are not real.” – Jerry Mander, Four Arguments For The Elimination of Television
It was 1999. The year before the new millennium, before reality programming truly exploded across the “boob-tube”. Before TV was inundated with harmless competitive island games and greedy chuckleheads eating bull testicles and crab spiders, there were only two “reality” shows at the time: Cops and Jerry Springer.
Two chums (Andrew Graham and Joe Deagnon) from Toronto, Ontario were sitting at home, watching a tiny, thumbnail-sized trailer for The Blair Witch Project. Analyzing the groundbreaking advertising campaign for the film, the future zeitgeist came as an epiphany. After viewing the 1992 film “C’est Arrive Pres de Chez Vous”, a mockumentary following a serial killer around while he plies his trade, they decided it was time someone took advantage of the wave of mindless reality programming that was about to infiltrate the current media landscape.
The concept of Serial Cam was to choose a friend (Ryan Barwell) who was experiencing general strife; jobless, no girlfriend at the time, or possible future, on anti-depressants, and follow him around with a video camera, streaming his woes for the general public on the internet. The caveat being, the chosen friend’s profile had to closely mirror that of a serial killer. Developing the carefully orchestrated Schadenfreude, they would use these events to help push this friend further toward an ultimate goal: the world’s first true documentation of a serial killer “video diary” online.
Once they drafted their open-ended concept, the boys then contacted cult filmmaker and investor, Phil Cohen. (At the time, going under the name “Bob”.) Skeptical at first, Cohen finally relented and backed the project. To say things didn’t go well is an understatement. Infighting among the creators, micro-managing by Cohen and Ryan’s discovery of the Machiavellian plan to push him over the brink of sanity put the project in jeopardy, then finally dissolution.
Footage from the project still exists but Serial Cam eventually imploded under the weight of its own dark matter, even after the replacement of one of the main characters (Graham). Two of the main cast finally quit the project (Barwell & Graham) and decided to get real jobs. Deagnon went back to publishing comics and heading up the site you now sit reading.
After Graham and Barwell’s departure, Deagnon and co-writer Kirby Stasyna (Chicken Outfit) attempted a final stab at the project under the “Chicken Outfit” banner. (Before finally accepting defeat and embarking on the first issue of their comic.)
Would Serial Cam have been at the forefront of the torture-reality television wave of the 2000’s? With or without their contribution, a wretched mob of ego-maniacal, money-hungry exhibitionists, allowing us unfettered access to their lives, still continue to proliferate the airwaves to this day.
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