Investigation Discovery (ID) is a cable channel devoted to round-the-clock “news” shows depicting lurid and true murder-rape/rape-murder/endless kidnapping-variation cases in a standard template of soft-focus re-enactments featuring pretty actors, accompanied by alternately serious and quippy narration, juxtaposed with not-so-pretty real victims and experts rattling off just enough “facts” and “stats” to almost damper the sexy mood.
In other words, a network for not-yet-committed snuff-porn aficionados who’ve tricked themselves into thinking they’re just really into news documentaries. The evil geniuses at Discovery, the self-proclaimed “World’s No. 1 Nonfiction Media Company” that produces such educational programs as Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (TLC), Finding Bigfoot (Animal Planet) and Punkin Chunkin (Science … yes, Science) have done it again!
The Only TV Column That Matters™ had never even heard of ID until a recent South Park episode titled “Informative Murder Porn,” wherein the town’s adults were whipped into such a sexually murderous frenzy by the channel that the kids resorted to password-blocking it from them. The episode also featured secondary stories about how video games are ridiculous, the NSA are power-mad assholes and cable monopolies/companies are even bigger power-mad assholes, but those are givens—ID is a whole new world of terrible TV to explore!
Since ID’s series are shown on a hypnotic 24/7 loop and it’s impossible to tell “new” episode premieres from reruns, I began with Deadly Affairs, hosted by soap royalty Susan Lucci. Says ID, “Deadly Affairs tells real-life tales of love gone terribly wrong,” and they all end in murder, hence the title. Not to be confused with Deadly Women (ladies who kill), Deadly Devotion (hapless fatalities of cults) and Deadly Sins (bringing it back home to greed, adultery and murder).
Not everyone gets dead on ID, however: Surviving Evil, hosted by former Buffy/Angel star and one-time attack survivor Charisma Carpenter, re-enacts the tales of people who … well, you read the title. Between dramatic vignettes with good-looking actors and teary recollections from the real victims, a concerned Carpenter narrates while walking alone through dark alleyways, which seems to send a mixed message.
The newer, irresistibly pulp-titled Beauty Queen Murders takes the blood-soaked tiara and sash: “They were all so young. They were all so beautiful. They all held so much promise. And they were all killed before their limelight was up.” Bam! It’s even more stoopid-brilliant than Happily Never After, a network classic about newlyweds who end up as newlydeads … oooh … excuse me while I e-mail a résumé to ID.
Covering all societal bases, ID has Behind Mansion Walls (the rich and powerful killing each other over money and love, hosted by “journalist” Christopher Mason ) all the way down to Southern Fried Homicide (incestuous rednecks killing each other over cousins and love, hosted by “Southerner” Shanna Forrestall). And then there’s Most Likely To (star high-schoolers who go on to become killers), Frenemies (friendships that turn fatal) and Evil Twins (true tales of siblings who kill—others and/or each other), rounded out nicely with Karma’s a Bitch, which is essentially a how-to guide for exacting revenge. Way to ensure future stories to draw upon, ID.
Mostly, though, ID is about dummies who can’t keep it in their pants—and sometimes “it” meets an untimely demise down a KitchenAid garbage disposal. Tia Carrere hosted the premiere of the vengeful 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover on Valentine’s Day(!) this year; My Dirty Little Secret was about covert affairs; and Poisoned Passions, Scorned: Love Kills, Dates From Hell, Very Bad Men and Stalked are all about women who choose Mr. Wrong. Providing equal psycho-opportunity, there’s Pretty Bad Girls (self-explanatory) and Wives With Knives (ditto).
And, natch, murder: You can’t stay home because there’s a Nightmare Next Door; you can’t vacation because there’ll be a Murder in Paradise. And when you do get iced, in town or abroad, you can narrate I Was Murdered.
[Slow clap] Well played, ID.