I hate you, Lifetime. I hate you so much. I hate you for making a campy television movie about a historical murder-mystery starring a 90s child star, because you know that I will watch it. I hate you for following up with a miniseries about the same gross 1800s murder. Oh, Lifetime. You always know how to hold up a mirror to my worst self.
The Lizzie Borden Chronicles is not a “show you should be watching if you aren’t already,” as so many of our posts are tagged. Watching it only encourages what we all know Lifetime thinks: that we take delight in the most lowbrow tv experiences cable has to offer. Lifetime is right, of course. That’s why even though Lizzie Borden isn’t a show you should be watching, it’s a show you might watch anyway.
Number one reason you might watch: the Lizzie Borden story itself. Lizzie Borden was a spinster whose father and stepmother were found axe-murdered under suspicious circumstances (the circumstances being holy cow, someone killed them with an axe). Circumstantial evidence strongly pointed to Lizzie, but reasonable doubt prevailed. It seemed possible Lizzie was the killer, maybe even probable – but you just can’t be certain. You may be familiar with Ms. Borden from the jump-rope rhyme she stars in. In a pre-Nancy Grace world, the sensational Borden story spread far outside the borders of Fall River, Massachusetts. Over a century later the murders are still unsolved and hotly disputed.
The Lizzie Borden Chronicles picks up after Lizzie’s acquittal. The real Ms. Borden lived until 1927, spending her days outcast from Fall River’s polite society, taunted by local children and eventually driving her sister out of their shared home. The account is fictionalized – very fictionalized – but for those of us with unanswered Lizzie Borden questions, it satisfies some of that desire to know more about what happened, or at least to imagine what might have been.
Another reason you may watch: the cast. Christina Ricci has been playing creepy weirdos since she was in the single-digits, and she was honestly born for a role like Lizzie Borden. The cast is a dream team of Intense Youths From The 1990s: Clea DuVall (Girl Interrupted, Argo) plays Lizzie’s sister Emma, and Cole Hauser (School Ties, Dazed and Confused) is an investigator. That’s about it as far as big names go, but that’s more than you’d usually get in a Lifetime miniseries.
You also might land on The Lizzie Borden Chronicles if you have a love cheesy historical dramas. Did you grow up on Little House on The Prairie or Dr. Quinn? Do you love when old-timey stories have incongruous modern soundtracks (thanks, Baz Luhrmann)? This series will fill your quota of straight-talking 19th century New Englanders with ruffly collars.
I will not be watching the Lizzie Borden Chronicles after the first episode. It’s not that it’s bad – I mean, it is bad, in a Lifetime Series way, but that’s why we watch it. It’s just that I’m in the middle of moving and I’m waiting to see if my new house is spooky. I’m not saying that ghosts are real, but that’s because I don’t know if they can read my blog and exact revenge or whatever. Anyway, I’ve put a moratorium on anything spooky until I see how things pan out. Hell, even the word “moratorium” was probably a bit too scary.
That brings me to the last reason you might be watching: creepy stuff. This one isn’t exactly as scary as most horror movies, but I don’t think anyone expects it to be. If you have a high tolerance for spooky entertainment and want a low dose of it, this might be the show for you. It was actually a bit much for me, because I’m not particularly interested in dead bodies, but all of the “suspenseful” scenes were truly laughable. It’s more campy than scary, but Lifetime -cruel, cruel Lifetime – knows we’ll probably watch it anyway.