What do you want to do before you die? This is the question at the core of MTV’s latest reality show, “The Buried Life,” which follows the adventures of four guys as they check off items on a list of things to achieve before they die. The twist is that every time they accomplish something on their list, they have to help a random person do something, too.

“The Buried Life”

Mondays at 10 p.m.
MTV

“The Buried Life” received decent media coverage for being part of MTV’s new brand of programming intended to go beyond the network’s traditional territory of skanky dating shows. The New York Times ran an article last April heralding the show’s arrival as “MTV for the era of Obama.” Praising the existence of “The Buried Life,” the article celebrated that social consciousness was now going to be a higher priority than the sexual escapades of attractive young people.

Not so fast, New York Times. One of the guys (who are all, by the way, ridiculously good looking and difficult to tell apart) got naked — not once, not twice, but three times — in the first episode. And the item they were attempting to check off the list was getting into the Playboy Mansion. So it’s jumping the gun just a bit to assume that this is a bold leap forward for MTV. A hesitant step toward decency might be more like it.

That said, a step is a step. Though the “what do you want to do before you die?” gimmick may not be very original, Ben, Duncan, Dave and Jonnie try so hard to make it fresh and fun that they’re partly successful. The first episode is a good example of this: They go to ridiculous lengths to crash a Willy Wonka-themed party at the Playboy Mansion. Duncan and Dave don Oompa Loompa suits and hide inside a giant cake, while Ben and Jonnie pretend to be European soccer stud Cristiano Ronaldo and his agent. Is it juvenile humor? Yes. Is it funny? Sort of.

The fact that only two of them actually make it into the mansion (the Cristiano Ronaldo bit doesn’t work out) lends a sense of realism to “The Buried Life” — it’s clear that Playboy Mansion security doesn’t know what’s going on. This sense is heightened by the documentary-style filming, which seems genuine and especially appropriate for the more contemplative moments.

As for the socially-conscious half of the show, it’s nice to see underprivileged kids get a new computer for their classroom. But watching the guys swear, strip and party with Playboy bunnies in one scene and then talk to kids about the importance of education in the next is jarring, no matter how well intentioned they are. MTV will need to reign in their wild sides — or at least commit to more substantial acts of generosity — if the network wants to reconcile the split personalities of “The Buried Life.”

If MTV really wants to update its channel with some classier shows, “The Buried Life” is a decent starting point. Now all it needs is more maturity — so put your pants back on, guys.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.