The late-great Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

I'm going to assume she would have thrown reality TV in the small-mind box … and clearly so do writers Noah Pink and Kenny Yakkel in the new dark satire, This Is Your Death (alternate title: The Show). Their script explores a fairly timely theme: how far will our voyeuristic obsession with reality TV go before we unplug? According to This Is Your Death, pretty damn far.

This Is Your Death, the fictional show at the center of the film, combines the sappy background stories that have become a staple of reality TV with the big-budget stage production of the Ringling Bros. Circus (RIP). The premise: each week at least one contestant, always someone hard on their luck, will tell his or her heart-wrenching story before offing themselves live on screen. The twist: viewers at home can call in and donate money to the deceased's family, so their death is not in vain. See, so it's all for a greater good! Sort of.

At least that's how host Adam Rogers (Josh Duhamel) rationalizes it. Duhamel is finely cast as the hair-gelled Beverly Hills narcissist who's able to smooth talk anyone without the strongest moral compass that he, in fact, is making TV great again (by making it real again … nevermind the fact that it maybe was never real in the first place). While Duhamel's Adam seems thoroughly convicted in his beliefs, viewers might find understanding his POV as impenetrable as understanding Donald Trump (probably the writers' point). Nor is it easy to understand the motivations of stone-cold exec Ilana (Famke Janssen) or producer Sylvia (Caitlin FitzGerald), who deplores the idea but for some reason goes along with it. But satire is frequently absurd so let's suspend disbelief and just talk about the film's point — that reality TV is voyeuristic and harmful.

Here in lies the problem with the film – it becomes impossible to critique the delivery because I'm not sure I agree with the premise. If TV/film is lowbrow art, then, sure, reality TV may be the bottom of an already lowbrow barrel. And, as Eleanor Roosevelt suggests, there must be better uses for one's time then obsessing over the dramas of your neighbors. But is reality TV inherently harmful? In some cases, yes. Many The Biggest Loser contestants have wreaked havoc on their bodies, forever damaging their metabolisms. But is The Biggest Loser an exception? Have people been hurt by The Bachelor, Dance Moms, or The Great British Bakeoff, as shallow as all of those shows may be? I'm not sure. And it's a problem that I'm not sure, when a movie assumes right of the bat that the audience is on the same page — without doing any work to set up the problem before tearing it apart.

A secondary problem is relying on some of the same ploys the film is criticizing to make their point. A major criticism of a show like Britain/America’s Got Talent is the artist with the biggest sob story, not the most talent, is likely to win. This Is Your Death relies on some of the same sentimentality. While host Adam Rogers descends into moral bankruptcy, the film's other storyline follows Mason (Giancarlo Esposito, who also directs the film) as financial woes send him into despair. Mason is a good father who holds two jobs so his kids can attend a better school. Yet when he gets behind on the rent, his wife threatens to leave him, even though there's no indication that he's been unreliable before. Like with the main plot line, we needed more setup. Mason's story is clearly just an effort by writers to raise the stakes, and when coupled with a tear-drenched monologue by his crippled son, it all feels over-the-top and manipulative. A little subtlety is needed if realness is what the filmmakers are calling for.

Maybe there's a critique to be made about reality TV, but This Is Your Death is not quite the best messenger it could be. A lot of it is emotion without depth, kind of like a lot of the shows it's critiquing.