Milgram Redux: Game Show Contestants Laugh as they 'Kill' a Man in French TV Torture Experiment

Contestants on the show were encouraged to deliver electric shocks to this 'victim', played by an actor

By Mail Foreign Service | Daily Mail | March 2010

With a glamorous hostess, a roaring crowd and an enthusiastic group of contestants, it has all the trappings of a traditional television quiz show. But fake game show Zone Xtreme - which airs in France today - has a very sinister twist. Instead of taking part in innocent contests, participants are ordered to deliver near fatal electric shocks to their rivals.

Astonishingly, 81 per cent of people who took part were persuaded to dole out increasing shocks to 'victims', despite their howls of pain.

The show is actually an experiment, part of a documentary entitled How Far Will Television Go?, which producers say exposes the dangerous influence of television.

TV host Tania Young, right, directs an unidentified player while actor Laurent Le Doyen is seen on a screen for the reality TV show 'Executioner TV'

The stunt itself  is a reproduction of an experiment conducted by Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s, in which volunteers were ordered to inflict electric shocks on a student in order to improve memory.

'It's more about the notion of power than about the individual,' the show's producer, Christophe Nick told Reuters Television. 

'When a person is alone, face to face with someone abusing their power, then he or she becomes completely malleable and obedient.'

Some 69 candidates agreed to take part in the project, believing it was a pilot game show.

Once on set, the participants were told to put questions to a 'victim,' played by an actor, and to punish any wrong answers by delivering increasingly violent electric shocks.

The actor looks nervous as a game-show stereotype of a leggy blonde in a pink dress straps him in to the chair

Urged on by the game show host, around 70 per cent of contestants laughed at least once during the ordeal, the programme producers said, and only 19 per cent put a stop to the game before reaching the maximum charge of 420 volts.

'There's the fact that in a game, the boundaries between reality and fiction are blurred, so that even if your partner screams and begs you to stop, you still think you're in a game,' Nick said.

Milgram's study began a few months after the start of the Israeli trial against Nazi Adolph Eichmann for his role in organizing the transport and murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust and was meant to measure the willingness to obey an authority figure who instructed participants to perform acts that conflicted with their personal consciences.

By adapting the experiment to the television, Nick said serious issues were raised about the pervasive role TV has taken on in modern society, and the powerful influence it can have on human behaviour when abused.

The board used by contestants for the show

'In Milgram's case 62 per cent of participants obeyed abject orders; with television it's 81 per cent,' he said.

'Therefore you have to ask yourself a question which is more than about submission to an authority, but about the power of a system, a global system, which is television.'

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