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8-episode TV Series

David G. Croft


Running Time: 60' ea.


Main Cast:
Rutger Hauer - Presenter
John Woolvett - Dr. Templeton
Interrogator - Major Phil Ashby
Psychologist - Professor Richard Wiseman

"Shock Treatment" is an 8-part factual entertainment series for Sky One television presented by Rutger that explores the causes of human fear and shows how ordinary people react to it. Each 1-hour episode features 4 new members of the public who have volunteered to take part in an extraordinary 48-hour experiment - to experience genuine fear and show us their different responses.

What these Volunteers don't expect is to be taken to a disused Victorian mental asylum, a vast crumbling 10-acre building specially adapted to induce stress and fear, and wired with hidden cameras and microphones. Here they are stripped of personal possessions and locked in individual cells. From now on the only people they meet are the cast of actors who populate the Asylum: 'Dr. John Templeton', a bogus psychologist who carries out experiments for 'research'; fellow Volunteers who are in fact 'stooges'; and Silent Servants - frightening figures in gas-masks and chemical warfare protection suits who take the Volunteers to and from the Experiment Block.

Throughout their stay the Volunteers undergo experiments never seen before on TV. Each experiment is designed to elicit real fear - and they begin even before the Volunteers arrive! Each volunteer is collected by taxi to be driven to the Asylum. For example, on the journey their taxi is hijacked; their driver stabbed by a drunken yob in the road; or their car runs over a pedestrian. This is their first 'shock'.

In later experiments the Volunteers visit the Dark Room - a blacked-out chamber where frightening 'true' stories are played out in the dark with props and effects to create a terrifying live experience. In a bizarre twist on the quiz format, Volunteers must answer questions knowing that every time they answer incorrectly, another volunteer (played by an actor) will be held under freezing water. In a unique version of the classic Milgram experiment, they must thread a metal wand along an electrified cable, in the belief that every time the wand and cable make contact, another volunteer receives a massive electric shock. They witness another volunteer/actor have a nail hammered up his nose, a cigarette stubbed out on his tongue, a tooth violently extracted - and believe it is being done to them as well. Not to mention tarantulas, pythons, emperor scorpions, cockroaches, swarming locusts…

By creating a 'fear' context in which the Volunteers don't know what is real, who to trust and where to turn for help, "Shock Treatment" strips away TV conventions and shows ordinary people reacting to frightening situations their brains accept as real. We see Volunteers scream, cry, shake, even sing hymns - and some leave early, unable to face fear any longer. With the help of psychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman, these responses get analyzed by examining body language, heart rates and post-experiment interviews. The viewers are taken inside the heads of each volunteer as they keep a personal audio diary throughout their stay.

"Shock Treatment" owes much of its impact and effectiveness to its extraordinary location. The asylum is a huge 10-acre building in Brentwood, Essex, built in Victorian times as a home for the insane. Despite being closed down relatively recently, its interior has decayed: the paint is peeling from the walls, there is a smell of damp and decay, and there is dirt and dead pigeons everywhere. The production's art design team built on this core to create a truly unpleasant and sinister environment, from 'insane graffiti' and padded cells to abandoned surgical equipment.

The series was broadcast on Sky One (BSkyB).

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