On Sunday, the National Geographic Channel starts the parade with "Brain Surgery Live With Mental Floss," in which a 49-year-old named Greg Grindley will undergo deep brain stimulation surgery to treat tremors associated with early-onset Parkinson`s disease.
National Geographic says the program will mix recorded features with live updates from the operating room at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. The procedure has been around for years, but it`s still a bit surprising because it is performed with the patient awake. In publicity materials, doctors say they hope the program will help demystify the operation and brain surgery in general.
The intent isn`t quite so high-minded for A&E`s "Fear: Buried Alive," a two-hour special Monday night. Three people are to be buried alive "in an effort to conquer their darkest fears," a release for the show says.
"The participants will be sealed in underground coffins and closely monitored under scientific conditions as they endure a series of escalating horrors designed to test the strength of their psyches," we`re told. Among experts scheduled to chime in are film director Eli Roth, who is known for the "Hostel" movies, some of the most gruesome horror films of the last decade.
And then, on Friday night, Halloween ...(Continued on next page) eve, Destination America brings us "Exorcism: Live!" But this isn`t just any old exorcism: live! It is to take place at a house near St. Louis that factored into the case of Roland Doe (a pseudonym), the focus of exorcisms in the 1940s that inspired the book and film "The Exorcist."
Along for the possibly bumpy ride, we`re told, will be an archbishop, a "world-renowned psychic medium" and the Tennessee Wraith Chasers (the paranormal investigators from the Destination America`s "Ghost Asylum").
Now let`s return to our opening football analogy. We`ll take National Geographic at its word that the live brain surgery show is a public-service program rather than a ratings stunt, and thus we can only wish the best for Grindley. May his operation be the pass that is neither incomplete nor an interception - an unqualified success, preferably resulting in a touchdown.
As for the other two shows, what each wants, we must suspect, is to achieve the "very bad" result, the interception, because that would make the juiciest television. One of the buried-alive volunteers goes stark raving mad and has to be exhumed early. The exorcism house shakes, rattles and bursts into flame.
But it seems more likely that what each show will get is the merely "bad" result, which in the case of live television means, "Eh, nothing much happened of note." It`s the same result we`ve seen recently with, for instance, NBC`s live musicals. It`s the same result we saw way back in 1986 when Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone`s secret vault and found nothing.
Maybe the "Buried Alive" people will get lucky and inherit a little of Rivera`s karma: They`ll open a coffin in which, two hours earlier, they had buried a live human being and find it bafflingly empty. Now that would be something to see.