Like most people in Upstate New York, I’ve been captivated the last three weeks with the saga of the prisoners that escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6th. Whether it was the Shawshank Redemption-style escape or the fact that the sage was unfolding in my state, I wound up paying way more attention to this story than I would have expected. It helped pique my interest that I was in Burlington, Vermont when the escape happened, so I was relatively close to the story as it was initially unfolding. I generally am not super interested in the same local stories that everyone else obsesses about but this time around I was in the thick of it, watching Twitter for updates and speculating how far they’d get before (if?) they were captured. This is what happens in the summer when there isn’t anything on TV.
It was in the course of my recon about the story that I stumbled upon the fact that the Investigation Discovery channel was doing a special on the escaped prisoners. I’d vaguely heard of this channel but I’d never watched it; in fact, I wasn’t even sure if Investigation Discovery was part of my current cable package. It turned out that it was and I DVRed the special, not sure if I was really actually going to watch it. But a quiet weekend and boredom resulted in me watching the special shortly after it aired and while the special in and of itself wasn’t super informative if you had already been paying attention to the case – though I did enjoy the Taiwanese animation-style recreation of literally the most mundane parts of the story – it was the commercials for other Investigation Discovery channel shows that captured my attention. I wasn’t sure what programs like Fear Thy Neighbor, Southern Fried Homicide, Murder Book, and Tabloid were going to be like, but I sure as hell was going to find out. Based on the names alone, they figured to be somewhat entertaining. With a few weekends home without much scheduled and a general apathy about doing anything all that productive with my time, I started killing a lot of time watching Investigation Discovery, working my way through sampling their various shows. And I have to admit, it is quite the guilty pleasure.
Investigation Discovery is a channel devoted to true crime programming, which happens to be one of my weaknesses. I tend to like reading about true crime rather than watching it, but I’ll get sucked into an episode of 48 Hours, Dateline or Snapped if I happen to stumble upon them. I always find it interesting to see how cases are eventually cracked and I’m fascinated by the human behavior that these shows highlight. I briefly considered majoring in psychology with the ultimate goal of being an FBI profiler, so it’s probably not surprising that I’m drawn to these stories. It’s also probably not the best thing for my productivity that I’ve discovered a channel that runs these programs 24 hours a day, 7 days of week. I’m already finding that when I can’t find anything of interest on the TV, my default selection is now Investigation Discovery, though only if I can catch a show from the beginning. I need all the facts while I’m watching these programs.
Over the last two weeks I’ve sampled a variety of these shows and I definitely have my favorites. While Southern Fried Homicide boasts the best name of the bunch, it didn’t live up to expectations. The stories all involve homicides in the South (obviously), but then the narrator really doubles down on the whole southern angle by forcing ridiculous puns and terminology into the story. I get it – this is the South – but I really don’t need to listen to dribble like “there were more holes in his story than the screen door on grandma’s porch” while I’m waiting to see who the killer is. It’s just too gimmicky; perhaps it’s because I’m a “Yankee,” but I found the word play insipid by the end of the show. If they could lighten up a little bit on that, I might enjoy the show more. But given that there are plenty of other shows about murder on this channel, I can afford to be a little picky.
My favorite so far, hands down, is Fear Thy Neighbor. This program is focused on confrontations between neighbors that usually results in one neighbor terrorizing the other family. What I love about this show is how in sixty minutes these people go from arguing over a plot of land between the two driveways to one person turning a rental van into a fire bomb to blow the other neighbor up. I’m not making that up – that was the first episode that I watched.
Maybe Fear Thy Neighbor is more relatable because most people have neighbors; I’m currently a little annoyed with my upstairs neighbors because of their loud music and while I have no plans to blow them up (or even complain about it; I’m not big on confrontation), I can understand how frustrating it is to not be able to enjoy your home because of the actions of others. But even though I know that these confrontations on the show are going to go to new levels of insanity, I’m still shocked by how nutty people can be. If you want to feel better about your life, I used to advise you to watch Maury or Cops; now I’m adding Fear Thy Neighbor to the list.
The downside of watching all these programs is you might begin to think that everyone around you is capable of murder or terror. That’s not exactly a fun way to go through life, but it does make you think twice about cutting someone off in traffic or giving someone some side eye. You just don’t know what other people are capable of, especially since most of these shows are based on a chance encounter or a minor disagreement. I’m going to be extra nice to people for a while.
I’m sure that my obsession with Investigation Discovery is just a phase and that I’ll soon tire of the programming. Once real TV is back and I’m out of whatever funk that I’ve been in lately, I’ll probably only watch these shows occasionally. That being said, I do have high hopes for a series that is coming back to the channel in July – Evil Kin. I’m not even positive what this show is about (I have my theories), but the commercials are pretty scary and immediately caught my eye. And it’s nice to know that there are true crime shows at my fingertips any time that I want them.