Funny Games: The TV Years

When I first heard that Funny Games was being remade for the U.S. multiplex, I couldn’t imagine a more unlikely crossover between extreme European cinema and the American mainstream. But now this. Gosh. I know HBO is reputedly starving for new, edgy content. But really, what the hell is going on?

04.01.08 | HBO COMMISSIONS FUNNY GAMES, COMEDY-DRAMA SERIES

BASED ON MICHAEL HANEKE’S FILMS, TO BEGIN AIRING THIS FALL

LOS ANGELES, April 1, 2008 – HBO, in conjunction with Halcyon Pictures and Tartan Films, is set to begin production on the 12-episode first season of the new HBO comedy-drama series FUNNY GAMES, it was announced today by Nicki Brand, executive vice president, HBO Entertainment. Michael Pitt (“The Dreamers,” “Last Days”) and Brady Corbett (“Thirteen,” “24”) will star in the series, reprising their roles from the recent Warner Independent Pictures feature film.

Slated to debut October 31, FUNNY GAMES is executive produced by Michael Haneke (“Cache”) and Ron Howard (“The Da Vinci Code”). Based on the 1997 film directed by Haneke, the show looks at a different ordinary American family each week as they cope with the arrival of the white-clad Peter and Paul, two unwelcome guests who enjoy sinister “funny games” that turn their hosts’ lives upside down.

“FUNNY GAMES is an intense, thought-provoking series that’s unlike anything else HBO has presented before,” said Brand. “The show undermines the creature comforts of the bourgeoisie and mocks the American television audience through telling moments of sadism and brutality in a way that broadcast TV can’t do.”

“We’re definitely going to push the envelope,” said Howard. “Michael’s brilliant films never found the audience they deserved, but I’m incredibly excited to think that, every week, the HBO viewing audience will have the opportunity to rethink its relationship to the thoughtlessly violent entertainment spectacles it craves.”

The show will also introduce a groundbreaking interactive component. Midway through each episode, viewers will vote via 900 number or text message on whether or not the family in that week’s installment should be allowed to survive. But, in a soul-shattering twist that underscores the relation between cinematic spectatorship and sadism, each installment will nonetheless end with the casual murder of each family member, as well as any pets.

“Since I first conceived it in the mid 1990s, FUNNY GAMES has always been my intelligent, passionate reaction to stupidly violent American cinema and the audience of shabby, knuckle-dragging cretins that thoughtlessly consumes this kind of naïve, morally destitute entertainment,” said Haneke. “Fuck you,” he added.

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