My attitude towards so-called “guilty pleasure” TV is – if you enjoy watching it, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. But after viewing recent back-to-back episodes of Spike TV’s 1000 Ways to Die – on the recommendation of my sister and nephew, who won’t apologize, dammit! – I had to do an extra round of scrubbing in the shower afterward.
Die fascinates me with its bratty, tasteless depictions of allegedly true but outlandish deaths. Intentionally or not, it combines three influences: Those elaborate dying sequences that introduced each episode of Alan Ball’s brilliant HBO show Six Feet Under; the bad puns and sordid relish of the series Tales From the Crypt and the E.C. Comics on which it was based; and the adolescent morbid rush of the Faces of Death videos that were so notorious during my junior high and high school years. The charm of 1000 Ways to Die is definitely superficial and tacky. But if that’s a crime in TV-ville, Dancing With the Stars should be indicted, convicted, and executed… in a needlessly gory, far-fetched, but “true” way, of course.