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Marriage. Mayhem. Mu-u-urder. All of these elements are on display on Court TV's new series 'Til Death Do UsPart, and each is executed more ineptly than the last.
'Til Death Do Us Part is Court TV's first original scripted series, and each half-hour episode is based on a true crime story in which boy meets girl, boy and girl get along for a while, boy and girl stop getting along, and boy or girl ends up dead at the other's hand. The two episodes released to press follow the playbook for what goes wrong in TV marriages, one chronicling murder for money, the other for infidelity. For even truer crime, future episodes will focus on a woman clubbing her husband to death with a TiVo remote for adding 'Til Death Do Us Part to their season pass list.
Tonally, the show shoots for a vibe of Desperate Housewives meets Six FeetUnder, with soap opera mystery and intrigue intersecting with depictions of quite brutal death. But for a show to successfully compete with those canonical scripted offerings, it requires production values far above those of other Court TV shows. Fans of true crime can watch for hours the adventures of Psychic Detectives and Body Evidence: From the Case Files of DayleHinman, but as soon as we're asked to suspend disbelief enough to watch fictional characters inhabit their own world, the budget simply needs to be bumped up a notch. For 'Til Death Do Us Part to gain even a modicum of the alleged "truth" behind its stories, it needs better acting, more believable writing, sturdier sets, and a far more thorough editing pass. Slapping some Desperate Housewives sound-alike cues over the proceedings and calling it television sabotages a potentially interesting concept and renders it virtually unwatchable.
Presiding over the festivities is "The Groom Reaper" John Waters, either elevating the material by lending it his iconoclastic name or compromising his reputation by his very association with 'Til Death Do Us Part. As the show's resident Rod Serling, Waters appears at the beginning and end of each episode, submitting for our approval a couple of newlyweds with their whole lives ahead of them. When he appears at the end, he is more circumspect, reminding us that things don't always work out the way people expect. With a nod and a wink, he peers into the camera and utters the trademark bon mot of 'Til Death Do Us Part: "Well, I'm off to another wedding. Hope it's not yours." Waters seems to believe that he is involved in a deliciously naughty caper, and he relishes every word of his monologues. His enthusiasm and charisma make the rest of the show seem even flatter, and he might do well to distance himself from this project before people start to find out about it. A piece of advice: Go home and make another movie, John Waters. You cannot yet have run out of quirky things to film in Baltimore.
Court TV is not known for a high degree of street cred outside of hard-core true-crime fans and my grandmother, so a scripted show with a bona fide star is a huge leap forward in terms of exposure. If every aspect of 'Til Death Do Us Part were vastly improved, Court TV could find itself making the television show John Waters already seems to think he's in.