It surprises me to hear that the BBC are thinking about restaging this in some way.
I'm not one to get on my high-horse about these things, but I don't like the idea that part of the licence fee I pay gets used to create an experiment in which some people end up with lasting psychological damage in order that I can be "educated" by the television. It makes it worse to think that they might wring some degree of sensationalism from it at the same time (as is almost guaranteed, given the public's voracious appetite for such things).
Now, let's not be hypocritical. If they put this on as a programme, would I watch it? Almost definitely. However, I'd rather they did it as a documentary focussing on the original experiments of this nature already conducted.
Do I think these experiments yield valuable results? Well, to a degree, yes.
Personally I think the actual result, when compared against a sort of "control" prediction of what most people would expect to occur, illustrates a very skewed sence of human nature or, more importantly, an over inflated reliance on innate morality.
This sort of thing makes me think of the long standing debates (Hart - Bentham was it?) on (paraphrasing hugely) innate morality vs. relative morality.
I think it also makes people re-evaluate the implications of various oppresive regimes. It's very easy to quickly condemn an entire society or belief system as "evil" because it operates a set of rules which appear to be incomprehensibly cruel, irrational or sadistic to the external observer. I think it's much harder to answer the question whether, placed in the same situation, the majority of those self same external observers might find themselves taking on the mantle of opressor with some degree of ease, or even relish.
As a soundbite, I think this type of cruelty and sadism are very much a part of human nature.
Over time most scocities have develeoped a set of rules to supress and condemn sadistic/violent types of behaviour. I think the root of this is a fundamental acknowledgement that a society which allows bruitality and sadism to operate on a widespread basis (either with religious and/or legal endoresement or without) is inherently less stable, less productive and therefore less prosperous.
As a result, like so many other things, the deisre within most people to express this side of their personality exhbitis itself in other ways, as sexual fetishes, war games, computer games, physical contact sports - the list is nearly endless - which I think is a good thing.