Death! Like “Run This Town” and “I’m-a let you finish” jokes, he’s all around us right now, rifling through our old celebrity Rolodex and mercilessly culling those who didn’t make the cut into his new phone. And where Death goes, age-old contemplations follow—of what happens to us when we die, whether we go to a place of eternal peace and/or torment, and if so, whether they serve beer there and we get to see all our brahs again. But what if there’s another, more earthbound and exploitable brand of afterlife? What if instead of being free to serve out eternity attending never-ending choir practice and watching our descendents masturbate—or having our skin slowly flayed and roasted, as we’re forced to relive all the times we skipped choir practice to masturbate—we are instead condemned to wander the earth looking for a final rest that never comes? Even more disturbing, what if it also involves having to talk to Scott Baio?
That’s the premise set forth by the “BIO Channel” (formerly Biography, which sounds musty and boring and so 20th-century, like it would possibly involve reading things) and its Celebrity Ghost Stories, which is being touted as a new show—which just proves that they’re bald-faced fucking liars, as my far more graceful and attractive colleague Amelie Gillette already gave it a proper lashing last year. But apparently the unfinished business of earthbound spirits involves more than just engaging in a little erotic asphyxiation play with Belinda Carlisle, or giving Sammy Hagar and Ernie Hudson some much-needed closure on their awkward relationships with their parents, because suddenly we’re looking at nine more hours of reducing the mysteries of life to self-absorbed anecdotes. Yes, until recently, the quandary of life after death has been broached solely by clergy, philosophers, and rednecks armed with night-vision cameras, but now we’re going boldly into the fray with America’s favorite source of opinions no one asked for:
In each episode of “Celebrity Ghost Stories,” viewers will see several first-person celebrity narratives by respected actors, musical artists, and athletes. Cinematic recreations bring to life the personal accounts of stars who believe they have experienced the other side – and their narrations quite often reveal a side to the celebrity that has never been made public.
Indeed, such as the side whose thirst for validation is so witheringly intense, it will go to any length to slake it—even willingly allowing themselves to be portrayed by vaguely insulting look-alikes in recreations that combine the best in Unsolved Mysteries-style “wordlessly arguing with lots of pointing” dramatics with flashy jump-cuts inserted by a guy just waiting to get the call for the next Saw movie. But you know, maybe we’re being too prematurely cynical here (which would be very unlike us). After all, just because the premise seems tailor-made for inviting in the sort of attention-whoring people who would pretend to have an opinion on The Top 50 Least Effective Labor-Saving Agricultural Devices And Sharecropper Bloopers if it meant a little more camera time doesn’t necessarily mean that only C-listers desperate for exposure would suddenly have a life-changing ghost story to share, right?
Celebrities in season one include: Scott Baio, Carnie Wilson, Eric Roberts, Elisabeth Rohm, C. Thomas Howell, Carrie Fisher, John Waters, Rue McClanahan, Federico Castelluccio, Lisa Rinna, Jeffrey Ross, Vincent Curatola, Illeana Douglas, Tom Arnold, Nia Long, Dee Snider, Gina Gershon, Justine Bateman, Jay Thomas, Traci Lords, James Kyson Lee, Barry Williams, Debi Mazar, Greg Grunberg, Sammy Hagar, Morgan Fairchild, John Salley, Lili Taylor, Anson Williams, Kelly Carlson, Ali Landry and Ernie Hudson.
Oh, Lili Taylor, Illeana Douglas, and Debi Mazar… Someone obviously needs to call Alan Ball and have him create an HBO dramedy for you, perhaps starring as three divorced former high school friends who reunite in your religiously strict Southern hometown and, I don’t know, start your own midwifing business or something. In the meantime, you’re rubbing elbows with an awful lot of former alcoholics and addicts there who would probably claim that aliens convinced them to star in Soul Man if it meant creating sympathy for their stalled careers. But hey, when it comes to ghostly encounters, it doesn’t matter if you’re a big star, a former star, or a person who was maybe sort of a star once but has actually become more famous for the way he’s turned mocking his own non-star-ness into a weird, quasi-celebrity of its own. (Or, for brevity’s sake, “Barry Williams.”) After all, what matters here is the everyday human side—the “deeply personal,” “deeply emotional and revealing” lessons to be learned. And what are those again?
Joan Rivers hopes that moving into her new apartment in Manhattan will have a life changing effect on her, but when she unknowingly angers the spirit of its former tenant, the niece of financier JP Morgan, Joan’s life takes a frightening turn.
How horrid! One can only hope that Rivers somehow managed to turn her experience to her advantage—ideally with some crack about being so old she remembers when U.S. Steel dealt in tin cans, or about how she was so startled that this isn’t a really facelift. But hilarious as that’s bound to be, it’s just a run-of-the-mill, albeit oddly historically obscure ghost story; what about people who really took something away from their encounters?
A year after the death of his father, Scott Baio was still grappling with unresolved issues between them when his father began to appear in ways that would change their relationship forever.
For example, it was then and there that Scott Baio realized he would never be able to be monogamous, setting him up for a harrowing journey through an endless run of casual sex with blonde models, until he was finally forced to confront these unresolved issues of what it means to be a man over the course of several reality shows, including the upcoming Scott Baio Is 47 And Still Doesn’t Recognize The Difference Between A Television Camera And A Therapist. These confrontations are indeed proving to be “deeply personal,” Bio. What other valuable lessons have been imparted to our celebrities from the great beyond?
Teri Polo recalls how at 8 years old, she got a terrifying visit that made her realize how perceptive she really is.
Can you imagine enduring a full life, only to be turned back from the long-awaited reward of restive immortality and fated to walk the earth interacting with the living, then find out your ghostly duties involve seeking out the future star of Meet The Parents just to let her know perceptive she is? Wouldn’t you just want to ghost-scream all your frustrations in her stupid 8-year-old face?
But while playing “straight ghost” to Joan Rivers, giving Scott Baio yet another place to shift some blame, and handing down the universe’s endorsement of Teri Polo’s perspicacity are reason enough to tune in, Celebrity Ghost Stories needs a killer hook—as the French say, that certain je ne sais exploiting a recent tragedy to make it a must-watch:
In the series premiere, David Carradine marries a widow and becomes frequently visited by the jealous spirit of his wife’s ex; in a chilling twist of irony, the haunting takes place in his bedroom closet. Carradine, in one of his last interviews, goes on to give his views of life after death.
In a closet! What chillingly ironic foreshadowing! Hey, perhaps this explains Carradine’s fascination with closets? Perhaps the spirit world was trying to tell him something—something like, “Hey David Carradine, stay out of closets”? And even more intriguing is the idea of footage where David Carradine discusses life after death—because even more ironically, he himself is now dead! We wonder if Carradine’s particular vision of immortality involved forever being cavalierly associated with “closets,” wink wink, while one of his final interviews would end up on something called Celebrity Ghost Stories? We wonder how he’d react to seeing that now? Guess we’ll never know—unless, of course, he sends a message from the afterlife. Maybe he could look up, say, Casper Van Dien? That guy could probably use a little boost.