Hulu’s ‘Self Reliance’ stars Jake Johnson, who also wrote and directed the film, in the role of a lonely man named Tommy Walcott. He is picked up on the street one day by Andy Samberg, who reveals that he has been chosen for a unique reality show that can land him a million bucks. All he has to do is survive for thirty days while unknown assassins try to catch him off guard and kill him. It seems like a doable thing to Tommy, but as the days pass, he discovers how challenging it is to do the one thing that he thought would be the easiest part of the game. It also makes the audience wonder what they would do if they were in Tommy’s shoes. Has such a game ever existed in real life?
Jake Johnson was Inspired by Japanese Game Shows to Create DOG
While Tommy agrees to play the game, he later realizes that he never bothered to ask its name. It is much later that he discovers the name is D.O.G., aka Delusions of Grandeur. The reality show is streamed only on the dark web, and while it might seem like a survival show on the participants’ end, it is actually sold as a comedy to its viewers. Tommy is shocked by this difference in the perspectives, and that is what also shook Jake Johnson when he saw a show with a similar tone.
Johnson likes to watch Japanese reality shows, particularly from the early 2000s, and he chanced upon ‘Susunu! Denpa Shōnen,’ a reality series that aired from 1998 to 2002. The show was known to feature up-and-coming, relatively unknown comedians who had to perform some tasks or challenges, which got more and more ridiculous in a bid by the show’s creators to garner more audience. One of those episodes features Tomoaki Hamatsu, aka Nasubi, whose challenge was to spend 15 months naked in an apartment, living off the things that he won as prizes in sweepstakes, including food.
Johnson noticed that from the perspective of the audience, it was a funny situation, and things got more ridiculous as the participants became desperate. However, from the point of view of the participant, it was quite a bleak thing because if he didn’t win anything on a day, it would mean that he wouldn’t get to eat or wear anything, no matter his situation.
This got him thinking and eventually spawned the idea of D.O.G, in which a person is targeted because of their loneliness, with the stakes being much higher. For the viewers, a lonely person trying to find people to stay with them is hilarious, but for that person, the idea of dying if they are left alone, even for one minute, is a matter of life and death. The name “delusions of grandeur” is also meant to underline the complicated mental state of a person struggling with loneliness, which is a serious issue, but not for the people who watch it for laughs.
Johnson was also inspired by other reality shows that he is a fan of, citing the likes of ‘Survivor’ and ‘The Amazing Race,’ which constantly push the contestants out of their comfort zone to keep evolving, keep breaking barriers, and learn something about themselves in the process. With D.O.G, he created the same model for Tommy, who goes through quite a journey by the time the challenge ends.
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