20 years later, this is still the most accurate movie about the future that has ever been made 5 years ago

20 years later, this is still the most accurate movie about the future that has ever been made

"And in case I don't see you later..."

Reality TV is nothing new.


The first real examples of it actually kicked off back in the 1940s, but the genre of entertainment didn't really find its footing until the very early days of the 21st century.

Big Brother debuted on our channels in the year 2000, the same year that Survivor debuted in the US, Pop Idol kicked off in 2001, The X-Factor were a full three years later... and since then we've had everything from Keeping Up With The Kardashians to Ex On The Beach.

It is a hugely successful format, which is why it is even more interesting to note that The Malcolm Show preceded them all by two years.

Don't worry if you've never heard of The Malcolm Show, because it doesn't exist. The dark psychological thriller told the story of Malcolm living in modern-day New York, but he is completely unaware that the entire city has been covered in special CCTV cameras that allow viewers to watch his life 24/7.


That version of the script was delivered in 1991, with writer Andrew Niccol telling The Independent that "I think everyone questions the authenticity of their lives at certain points. It's like when kids ask if they're adopted."

In the seven years that followed before the movie finally arrived on the big screen, it went through several major changes. Original director Brian DePalma (Carrie, The Untouchables) dropped out when the budget didn't match his big ideas. New York became a perfection recreation of a fictional US seaside town.

Several directors expressed an interest - Spielberg, Tim Burton, Barry Sonnenfeld (Men In Black), Terry Gilliam (Monty Python), Bryan Singer (X-Men) - before the producers settled on Peter Weir (Dead Poets Society), who read Niccol's script and felt it could be mined for comedy.

Sixteen drafts later, Niccol was pleased enough with the changes, presented it to Jim Carrey, and so The Truman Show was born, released in cinemas on 5 June 1998.


Clip via Paramount Pictures

Looking back at the movie two decades later, it becomes more evident than ever that this is a science-fiction movie that isn't terribly interested in the future, but the here and now, just ever so slightly heightened.

That has been a vein through all of Niccol's screenplays - genetics in Gattaca, drones in Good Kill, artificial intelligence in S1mone, dissemination of private information in Anon - but nowhere is it more on the pulse than in The Truman Show.


The explosion of popularity of reality TV is one thing, but the expansion on the definition of "celebrity" is just as strong, as Truman finds himself at the centre of attention... simply for living his life. In a world where every aspect of living is posted on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, anyone is capable of achieving celebrity status, simply by living a normal life in as entertaining a way as possible.

Doubling as an easy way to sell stuff, The Truman Show constantly looks like an brightly-lit advert, where everything in his world is available to buy, which really went a long way towards preempting the high-value product placement on prime-time TV shows (anyone suddenly want to buy that car they were driving in the latest episode of Modern Family?), to every single blockbuster attempting to make their money back before they've even hit the cinema. We're looking at you, James Bond movies...

There is also the war between audiences and creators, as people tune in 24/7 to watch this guy doing guy things, while Christof (Ed Harris, playing an off-Christ, if you will) dominates from above. Viewers aren't exactly having their synapses tested by watching Truman brushing his teeth every morning, but are the audiences just getting dumber because of dumbed-down material, or are creators just giving audiences what they really want?

With a $60 million budget, The Truman Show went on to make $264.1 million at the box office, which is very decent for a high-concept sci-fi comedy, with Harris, Weir and Niccol all getting Oscar nominations, but perhaps the biggest flag of the film's imprint is with what has been termed The Truman Show Delusion.

Joel Gold, a psychiatrist at the Bellevue Hospital Center, revealed that by 2008 he had encountered five patients with schizophrenia, and heard of an additional twelve, all of whom believed they were living as part of a secret reality TV show.


Gold went on to name the syndrome The Truman Show Delusion, following reports (via Newsweek) of patients heading to New York City to check that the World Trade Centre had actually fallen, believing instead it to be just an expensive plot-twist in their show, and another climbing to the top of the Statue Of Liberty, sure he would be re-united with his high-school girlfriend and he allowed to exit the show.

When a New Zealand news outlet told writer Niccol about the syndrome, he had just one thing to say:

"You know you've made it when you have a disease named after you."

Clip via Movieclips