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I am trying to recall a short story I read in an anthology about 10 years ago. It was written from the point of view of an "ordinary man", chosen especially to be as unremarkable as possible to appeal to TV audiences. It is set in a near future, in which the TV networks run vicious gameshows with deadly outcomes. On one show, for example, he was put in a plane by himself, flying at high altitude, and had to land it without any training. If he succeeded he won a cash prize, if he failed... well, he died. Another task which sticks particularly in my mind, was that he was brought to Spain to participate in a corrida de toros (with no training again, naturally). It seems that the public had tired of seeing well-trained athletes/experts performing flawlessly, and preferred watching ordinary people bumbling around, and often dying messy deaths.

Rather like "The Hunger Games" the audience could pay money to participate by supplying food, medicine, etc, or just shouting a warning at opportune moments. Every moment of the task was covered in multiple angles by camera-drones.

Having survived several tasks like this, he participated a show in which he had to survive a week on the run from some Mafia-style gangsters, but I don't remember what the outcome was.

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    Can you remember what language the story was written in, or where it was set? Where did you find the anthology that you read it in? – Rand al'Thor Jun 10 at 14:19
  • @Randal'Thor The story was written in English, and I believe it was set in the USA - travelling to Spain was presented as rather exotic, which would not be the case for a UK-based story. The book came from a public library here. – Clara Diaz Sanchez Jun 10 at 14:24
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    Not this story, but you might find Stephen King's "The Running Man" similar or relevant, if you fancy a read and don't know it. – Stilez Jun 11 at 8:22
  • There are indeed many parallels @Stilez , see here for example scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/100894/… – Clara Diaz Sanchez Jun 11 at 16:10
  • Also this fascinating article on the entire genre: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptations_of_The_Most_Dangerous_Game – Stilez Jun 11 at 16:40
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"The Prize of Peril" by Robert Sheckley

Unlike the others, Emergency was not a competition-type program. It stressed individual initiative. For the show, Raeder was knocked out with a non-habit-forming narcotic. He awoke in the cockpit of a small airplane, cruising on autopilot at ten thousand feet. His fuel gauge showed nearly empty. He had no parachute. He was supposed to land the plane.

....

Thousands of viewers watched spellbound as this average man, a man just like themselves, struggled with the situation just as they would do. Jim Raeder was them. Anything he could do, they could do. He was representative of the people

Found with a search for science fiction "short story" future game show "land * plane", which brought up an online PDF of The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Volume Two.

Also available via Baen Book's for free here.

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  • Ninja'd! well done. – Organic Marble Jun 10 at 14:24
  • @FuzzyBoots thank you! That google search doesn't bring up anything useful for me though, at least not within the first three pages :( – Clara Diaz Sanchez Jun 10 at 14:36
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    Google searches are affected by your previous browsing history, unfortunately. It's better to take the search terms as informational in order to prepare a strategy for the next time you are looking for something. (Or switch to a non-tracking search engine like duck-duck-go.) – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Jun 11 at 13:41

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