Valentine’s Day is always a good time to ponder the eternal verity: If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours forever. If they don’t, stab them in the face, ram their pickup truck, icepick their pregnant stripper girlfriend or let them be kidnapped by insane Nazi clonemasters.
And don’t worry — if you haven’t got a date, you can still participate vicariously in these romantic moments Thursday night with two marvelously dysfunctional television shows that, if nothing else, offer a convincing refutation of the concept of reproduction of the human species.
For sheer cheesiness and sociopathology, Investigation Discovery’s bizarre documentary 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover cannot be topped. Hosted by Tia Carrere, two decades ago the hot girl sidekick in Wayne’s World, now drifting into blowsy and slightly rabid middle age, 50 Ways is a weirdly fascinating celebration of female misandry and sexual violence.
It dissects three true-crime breakups, replete with arrestingly idiotic interviews (“I never intended to stab Patty” — who could have guessed an icepick would penetrate human flesh?), inane psychoanalysis (“the moment you are compelled to use glue on your man’s penis ... that’s the moment you say, ‘I have to leave this relationship’ ”) and recreations staged by actors whose careers seem likely to top out with roles as zombie extras on The Walking Dead.
Each case features women who believe they’ve been cheated upon retaliating against their men — or, if the fellows aren’t handy, their girlfriends — with measures ranging from genital mutilation to attempted homicide. Carrere’s disdain for the victims (“I’d say that guy got off pretty easy,” she says of the target of what she calls “the pasted-penis parable”) becomes all the more interesting if you know that she was accused of frolicking with a married hockey player in a Canadian divorce case a few years back.
Fainthearts disturbed by 50 Ways’ ebullient treatment of sexual battery had best not contemplate at all the romances that preceded the violence. One commenced when a guy accompanying a longtime female friend to a strip club had an amorous epiphany when she announced, “I have to pee.” Another woman thought it would jumpstart her fading marriage to encourage her husband to impregnate a neighbor. The two women wound up battering one another with lawn furniture while their trailer-park neighbors cheered.
Not that it wasn’t a learning experience. “Don’t try to have another girl have your baby,” earnestly counsels the saddened wife. “To let your husband sleep with her and have a baby causes a lot of problems.”
Next to 50 Ways, ABC’s new conspiracy-thriller series, Zero Hour, may seem like Dostoyevsky. And it does have a lot of characters and a hopelessly confusing plot, which kicks off with the wife of a magazine editor being kidnapped by — maybe — a band of Nazis led by a clone left over from 1938. Or maybe not. Lucidity is not a strong point of Zero Hour. Neither are acting or plot.
But the show is not without its strengths, particularly the scenes in which the magazine editor (Anthony Edwards, ER) argues with young staffers disappointed by his refusal to run a story about werewolves running amok in Romania. “I’ve been doing this for a long time,” the editor ponderously lectures them. “And one of the things I’ve learned is that the first answer might not be the right one.” You mean Twilight isn’t a documentary?