Investigation Discovery's hunk-studded miniseries Heartbreakers premiered last night, with Antonio Sabato Jr. and Christopher Knight battling for Tracey Gold's love in one of the strangest true crime shows my eyes have ever witnessed.
It's like some young fire-starter at ID pitched the idea, "Everyone loves to laugh at crime reenactments. So let's give 'em what they want: some waaay over-the-top crime reenactments in goofy costumes, with iconic throwback hunks playing the killers! It'll be amazing." ('Amazing' said with that particular note of disdain it took on somewhere after 2005.)
And then one of the veteran ID development execs was like "Let me get this straight: you want to make a comedy about real murders?"
"Not a comedy," the fire-starter amends quickly. "We'll be careful about that; no one will be cracking any actual jokes... But it will still be hilarious."
And so we have the sensibility of Heartbreakers, a show that looks like Strangers with Candy and has its tongue firmly in its cheek, yet is portraying the grisly deaths of real people. It's an interesting tension, because to be real we've all been laughing at these kinds of cheesy crime reenactments for years. But the show being this in on that particular joke sort of sours the laughter.
There's a line in Susan Sontag's essay Notes On 'Camp' that maybe sums it up: "One must distinguish between naïve and deliberate Camp. Pure Camp is always naive. Camp which knows itself to be Camp ('camping') is usually less satisfying." Heartbreakers tries to negotiate being campy without being blatantly insensitive and sort of fails in both respects. The joke became untenable when actual grisly crime scene footage was mixed in with Christopher Knight's Foghorn Leghorn imitation.
Look, it literally hurts not to give a gushingly positive review about any show that involves dreamboats like the cast of Heartbreakers, a roster of legitimate legends:
And credit where credit is due, an army of eagle-eyed thrifters must have crafted these stunning ensembles with such skill and care:
Still, if I or someone I loved was murdered, I don't know if I'd want a narrative of that tragic end involving jokey Growing Pains references. But maybe an irreverent tribute is better than no tribute.
[Videos, images via ID]
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