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Organ donor show a hoax

In an absolutely brilliant turn of events, Endemol and Netherlands prodco BNN revealed at the end of the Big Donor Show that the whole thing had been a hoax intended to raise awareness about the terrible prospects facing those waiting for organ donation in that country. International press and the Dutch government had been up in arms when it was announced that the show would go to air, with one Dutch minister going as far as asking that the government step in to prevent it. The premise of the show was simple: three contestants would compete reality show style for a donated kidney. The final winner would be decided by the donor who, it was said, had terminal brain cancer.
July 1, 2007

In an absolutely brilliant turn of events, Endemol and Netherlands prodco BNN revealed at the end of the Big Donor Show that the whole thing had been a hoax intended to raise awareness about the terrible prospects facing those waiting for organ donation in that country. International press and the Dutch government had been up in arms when it was announced that the show would go to air, with one Dutch minister going as far as asking that the government step in to prevent it. The premise of the show was simple: three contestants would compete reality show style for a donated kidney. The final winner would be decided by the donor who, it was said, had terminal brain cancer.

While the donor was an actor, the three contestants were actual patients waiting for organs. Everyone involved was in on the hoax – except the viewers at home.

As the live show was about to wrap, host Patrick Lodiers revealed the deception, and provided more startling facts facing patients waiting for organs: on January 1, 2007, 1,441 people in the Netherlands were on the waiting list for organ transplantation, with the wait time for a transplant kidney averaging four-and-a-half years – 18 months longer than at the time of the implementation of the Organ Donation Act in 1998. Television doesn’t get much more real than that.

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.

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