MTV, dude, like what the heck’s goin’ on? Your new shows are more positive — “prosocial,” as the academics like to say — but they’re such over-produced hybrids that calling them “reality” is more of a stretch than usual. Enter the peculiarly derivative “The Buried Life” and “My Life as Liz,” which arrive back to back but, the “Life” connection notwithstanding, don’t really go together. Thank God the channel has hired an exec to develop scripted shows, ’cause the unscripted squad could use a vacation.
The Buried Life” can best be described as “The Bucket List” meets “Jackass,” with a dollop of “My Name Is Earl” thrown in for good measure. Asking, “What do you want to do before you die?” four twentysomething friends travel the U.S. in a bus trying to scratch items off their own lists, beginning with crashing a party at the Playboy Mansion. (The telecast carries the obligatory disclaimer suggesting that you at home not try breaking into the Playboy Mansion — a disclaimer that, sadly, is probably necessary.)
In what feels like a desperate attempt not to look like self-centered douchebags, they also try to help somebody else achieve one of their goals. Pay it forward, sort of.
The result is a busy, messy, harmlessly silly exercise, sunken largely by the effort to cram its mismatched components into a single half-hour.
As for “Liz,” the show feels like a sitcom — “Juno: The Really Cheap Version” — heavily narrated by a precocious (that is, obnoxious) 17-year-old girl, Liz Lee, living in Burleson, Texas, which she characterizes as a “small, conservative, whitebread town.”
Like many fictional teen protagonists, Liz considers herself to be smarter and cooler than all the poor saps around her. Yet her interactions are so heavily staged it’s hard to believe “Liz” is expected to fool anyone — including peers who might identify with her. “MTV made me do this,” she says in a precredit voiceover that’s as cheeky as everything else.
Mostly, Liz inadvertently leaves you commiserating with the classmates she spends her time haughtily lampooning, dubbing one “as shallow as a hobo’s puddle of urine on the sidewalk.” Seriously, does anyone really talk (or write) like that?
Of course, as “The Buried Life” posits, life is short. The problem, MTV, is if your audience really does have lists of milestones they’d like to accomplish while still young enough to enjoy them, venturing outdoors and avoiding cynical programming like this might be a good start.