Most reality TV is such a tease, so utterly controlled in its attempt to be shameless, that it’s easy to hook into the ”Banzai!” how-low-can-we-get-people-to-stoop spirit of Games People Play: New York. Directed by James Ronald Whitney, whose ”Just, Melvin” (2001) was a confessional documentary about his victimization by incest, ”Games” (which is proudly unrated) presents itself as the first installment of the ultimate reality-stunt franchise. In New York City, a public audition is held to find six contestants who are willing to peel off their clothes, divulge their darkest secrets, and, in one sequence that is terrifying in its silliness, pick up random civilians to join a ”Naked Trio,” which turns out to be very bad nude singing and dancing in a hotel room.
The auditions generate a frisson of shock. Just about all of the participants are good-looking aspiring actors (the sort of people, in other words, you generally encounter reciting the chef’s special in upscale restaurants), and their willingness to get naked on camera is, in every respect, eye-opening. ”Games People Play,” however, is a bit of a tease itself. The movie keeps threatening to become amateur porn, like a risqué ”Candid Camera” gone ”Dirty Debutantes,” but it never quite gets there (though a section called ”Casting Couch” comes close). Instead, as the contestants talk of bulimia and prostitution and Tourette’s syndrome, shedding enough tears for 10 Barbara Walters specials, Whitney pulls off a big twist, leaving you to ask, What is reality?