Alibi V.17 No.20 • May 15-21, 2008 

Idiot Box

You Go Squish!

“1000 Ways to Die” on Spike

Spike TV’s new two-part micro-series event “1000 Ways to Die” bills itself as a documentary that “combines the science of living and the randomness of death with a dash of Darwinism.” What the show really does, however, is combine the notorious (and mostly fake) snuff footage of Faces of Death with the “at least it wasn’t me” snarkiness of the Darwin Awards, and paints the whole shebang with a thin veneer of “CSI”-style forensic info.

Want to know what actually happens when a rattlesnake’s venom enters a human’s bloodstream? Curious how nitrogen bubbles affect the body after long exposure underwater then an immediate shot to two miles up into the sky? Want to hear about a whole lot of messed-up freak accidents? “1000 Ways to Die” has got your itch scratched.

It’s clear that the makers of “1000 Ways to Die” have nothing resembling reverence in mind, since they start out each of the show’s quick-clip segments with a black-and-white comic book panel. This gives the show the campy, gory appeal of the original Creepshow movie. Following a rude title card describing each death ( “Semi-cide” or “Lesbocution,” for example), viewers are treated to a cheesy live-action recreation of some urban myth involving a weird, preferably nasty death. (The stories are allegedly all “true,” though there’s little attempt to corroborate any of these elaborately gruesome passings.) As each tale unfolds, faux documetary-style, CGI sequences taken straight out of “CSI” show us what crushed bones or exploded hearts look like. Forensic experts, pathologists, toxicologists, herpetologists and other experts are also on hand to offer rather dry, talking-head explanations of mortality.

Created by Thom Beers, the mind behind Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch” series, “1000 Ways to Die” could have been an irreverent educational outing; but it doesn’t aim for much beyond simple shock value. The testimony of the “experts” doesn’t really amount to much other than “getting your legs chopped off by a semi will kill you” or “having 10,000 volts pass through your heart will kill you.” Bitten by black widows, chomped on by rattlesnakes--the results here are all rather predictable. Of course, Spike TV (home of “TNA iMPACT!” and “The Ultimate Fighter”) and higher education have never been the most companionable of concepts.

Right now, “1000 Ways to Die” seems confined to two weekly “specials.” If it does well, of course, the specials could serve as what the industry calls a “backdoor pilot” leading to more of the same. While you won’t walk away from “1000 Ways to Die” any wiser, you might have some fun squinting your way through the purposely blurred fake gore and imagining 1,000 more ways in which your homeroom teacher, your parents and anyone else who doesn’t understand your obsession with black T-shirts, death metal and the Evil Dead films might meet a colossally bloody end.

The first episode of “1000 Ways to Die” airs Wednesday, May 14, at 9 p.m. The follow-up episode airs Wednesday, May 21, at 9 p.m.