From getting fat on fries to belt-tightening show
The experience is televised each Wednesday.
By TERRY MORROW
"Super Size Me" maker Morgan Spurlock will turn the camera on himself again for a foray into series television.
For "30 Days" (debuting 10 p.m., Wednesday, FX), Spurlock and his significant other, Alexandra Jamieson, will try to live on minimum wage ($5.15 an hour) for a month in Columbus, Ohio.
Each week on "30 Days," one person will immerse themselves in a different lifestyle. Future episodes will have a heterosexual man living in a gay culture and a conservative Christian among Muslims.
"It's people going through journeys, seeing life through someone else's eyes," says Spurlock, who was nominated for an Academy Award this year for his anti-McDonald's documentary "Super Size Me."
"I want people to watch the TV show and step back and say, 'I need to think about the choices I make in life.' This isn't a show about people winning money for doing what they do."
Spurlock wanted to face the first test for his series.
"When I first got the idea for this series, it was my idea to be the subject every week, to go out and do something different every week," Spurlock says. "Then Alex said, 'well you're not going to have a girlfriend very long.' "
When I told her I thought about doing the premiere episode, she said, 'well, I am coming with you."'
The two had to find an apartment, take public transportation and get creative with their meals.
"We did what millions of Americans do every single day," he says.
For an apartment, he found a landlord who allowed him to pay weekly.
The landlord, who was initially unaware that Spurlock was making a TV series, also pro-rated the rent when they moved into the flat in the middle of a month.
Spurlock took a variety of jobs, including construction, landscaping and as dishwasher. He made an average of $200 a week.
Jamieson had steadier employment at a coffee shop.
"The thing we both learned from this is how difficult it is," he says. "It really is hand-to-mouth. It's check-to-check. You're teetering on this precipices that, at anytime, could fall apart."
During the course of filming, Spurlock and Jamieson had to go to emergency rooms at different times for unrelated incidents. Neither of them had health insurance.
"We're stuck with these giant medical bills, and we had to find a way to pay these," he says.
They couldn't rely on their real-life finances either. Spurlock and Jamieson gave up their credit cards and access to their own banking accounts for 30 days.
To compensate, Spurlock took two jobs -- landscaping by day and dishwasher by night.
"I was gone from home for 18 hours and, on my best day, made $92," he says.
Spurlock says he didn't lie on his work applications. He admitted to being a college graduate, but told employers that he was the subject of a documentary, which explained why cameras were following him.
"You have to wonder what our lives would have been like if we weren't college graduates or if we were a different race," he says. "It opened my eyes to what comes into play in this situation."
They had $35 in their budget each week for food. "That's eating cheaply. It's vegetables and rice and beans," he says. "We didn't buy one thing in a box."
Jamieson was inspired to write a book on how to eat cheaply and healthy.
The stress of the situation also played upon his relationship with Jamieson. Spurlock cites a statistic that couples making less than $25,000 are twice as likely to get divorced than families making $50,000.
"You start to see the stress and strain. You are physically and emotionally spent. We bickered about silly things, like what happened at work," Spurlock says. "We were there for a month. You have to wonder what it is like for people who live in this every day."
And what did Spurlock and Jamieson do when the 30 days was up? "We went out to dinner," he says. "It was fantastic."