This series gave Judge Gordon Sullivan some sobering thoughts about marriage. He's off at his local watering hole seeking an antidote.
To Love, Honor, and Perish
Around the time of Serial Mom, John Waters approached the fledgling Court TV (now TruTV) network to open a dialogue about possible collaborations. The network turned him down: they were just getting established, and John Waters was still a name more associated with the eating of dog feces than with a hit Broadway musical. More than ten years later, Court TV approached Waters with a show that seems tailor-made for Waters' obsession with the dark side of suburbia: 'Til Death Do Us Part. The show has everything you'd expect with Waters as the host, especially camp and black humor. Although it might not be the kind of show that gets rewatched constantly, 'Til Death Do Us Part: The Complete First Season is worth a spin.
Facts of the Case
Each of the 13 episodes of the first season opens with a wedding (or associated party). In attendance is our host, the Groom Reaper (John Waters), who cattily informs us that one of the spouses is going to murder the other. Roughly the first half of each episode is a thriller, as the audience is kept in the dark about which spouse is going to be the victim. Then, once the deed is done, the last part of the show focuses on the stupid things people do to get caught once they've committed a murder. Finally, the Groom Reaper shows up again at the end to inform us of the fate of the murderer and tell us he's "Off to another wedding…hope it isn't yours."
All 13 episodes of the first season are included on three discs:
Cross Tales from the Crypt with Alfred Hitchcock Presents and your average true-crime show, put John Waters in as host, and you've got 'Til Death Do Us Part. As the opening title informs us, each episode is based on actual cases. From there, the show proceeds in three distinct phases. The first is the wedding introduction. We see the happy couple and the often bizarre weddings, and our host the Groom Reaper gives us pun-laden hints about the couple's future. From there we proceed into the mystery portion of the show. Here it's mostly the misery of one or more of the spouses as he or she puts up with the crap the other dishes. In this phase of the show it's usually pretty easy to side with one spouse or the other; however, it's not always easy to determine who is going to murder whom. Once the deed is done (in an often violent but generally bloodless way), the show moves into the aftermath, as the murderer tries to cover up his or her tracks. The murderer is always caught, often because of a stupid mistake. As the police cart the person away, the Groom Reaper reappears to pass more campy judgment and the episode is over.
The formula is pretty simple, but as the saying goes, "The only way to comprehend what mathematicians mean by infinity is to contemplate the extent of human stupidity." Boy, are the people on this show stupid. Knowing that the episodes are based (however tenuously) on real-life cases makes them the TV equivalent of a car crash. I had to keep watching to see how stupid the characters were going to be. It wasn't just the murders. Some of the weddings (like the football-themed one) were like mini-wrecks of their own.
As you'd guess with John Waters as the Groom Reaper, the entire show has the camp dial turned to eleven. As befits the ridiculous lengths people will go to in eliminating their spouses, the writers of the show come up with some over-the-top dialogue. Not to be outdone by the scripts, the actors rise to the challenge, delivering performances that would be cringe-worthy in any other context. If you're afraid that a show about couples murdering each other will be a bit much, never fear. The show strays far from the darker aspects (like physical abuse) that color spousal disagreement. 'Til Death Do Us Part ends up being light, bitchy fun at the expense of others' stupidity.
On the technical side of things, this is a fantastic presentation of the show. The video was amazingly clean and crisp, with loads of detail. The audio was likewise effective, balancing the ridiculous dialogue and the score.
The extras, however, were a bit lackluster. We get some extra bits from Waters as the Groom Reaper, and some interviews with Waters and the creators of the show. The interviews are very formulaic, and not very in-depth. Unsurprisingly, Waters comes off the most articulate and knowledgeable, as the others repeat many of the same facts over again.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
For better or worse this show has a formula, and if you don't like that formula then the show isn't for you. I enjoyed each of the 13 episodes of this season, but as with most mystery shows, I'm not sure they're going to have a high replay value.
I suspect that 'Til Death Do Us Part will end up much like A John Waters Christmas, the kind of thing that won't get much solo indulgence but will be trotted out at parties for likeminded friends. The technical aspects of the disc are top-notch and even the lack of significant extras shouldn't distract prospective fans from picking up this set.
'Til Death Do Us Part is found not guilty. I'm off to another case…hope it isn't yours.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BCI Eclipse
• New Introductions by John Waters
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