I was a little iffy on CNN opting to show programming like “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” and “Crimes of the Century” on the weekends, instead of opting to show live news as it is a cable news network, but I must say the network has found something really good in Morgan Spurlock’s documentary series “Inside Man.”
Spurlock is one of America’s finest documentarians known best for his 2004 hit “Super Size Me,” in which he ate nothing but McDonald’s for a month and documented the drastic effects it had on his body and lifestyle. That feature length documentary put Spurlock on the map, garnered him an Academy Award nomination and is considered to be one of the greatest documentaries of all-time.
Spurlock’s documentary style is one that’s able to be largely entertaining and informational at the same time – which I think is a must to be a great documentarian. At their core documentaries are meant to be informational, but if they are not also entertaining they have a way of losing the audience. Spurlock is able to make his documentaries entertaining by infusing some humor into them and by generally seeming like a great guy and having a winning personality.
“Inside Man” isn’t the documentarian’s first attempt at a televised documentary series. His series “30 Days,” where he or others would immerse themselves into different lifestyles for 30 days, aired on FX for three seasons from 2005-2008.
“Inside Man” fits well into CNN in that each episode takes on a topic or issue that you are likely to see on the network and in the news on any given day and is able to expound upon the issue in much detail as it’s an hour-long show, rather than simply being a 10-15 minute segment on something like “Anderson Cooper 360” or “Piers Morgan Tonight.”
The first month of episodes has dealt with such interesting and often controversial topics as medical marijuana, gun control, immigration and education. You would think that the interest level of each episode would depend on one’s interest level in the individual subject, but I’ve found that Spurlock’s style has lead to each episode being generally just as interesting as the last.
Spurlock’s style is also interesting because he doesn’t just document what’s going on with these topics, rather he straps his workpants on and gets down to the nitty-gritty of them either by working in a medical marijuana dispensary, working in a gun shop, by picking oranges with immigrants over a full shift or by teaching a class full of students in both Finland and America.
Spurlock also does a good job in not being preachy or throwing in many of his own opinions, which is fair game in a documentary – but maybe not as much on CNN, into his episodes. The series is generally one that simply lays out the issue for the viewer and gives them the information needed to form an opinion of their own.
Spurlock is essentially doing America a great deed by feeding them what they might not know or what they need to know on a subject all the while making it a fun watch. The first season of “Inside Man” is eight episodes long and currently at its midpoint. However, there is likely no shortage of fantastic ideas for future episodes, so here’s to hoping CNN picks it up for a second season.
“Inside Man” can be seen locally on Conway Corp. channel 12 on Sundays at 9 p.m.