I Survived... is low budget, simple, and astoundingly well-edited. For the uninitiated, this is a show that typically involves three separate people talking about an accident or attack that almost killed them. These incidents run the gamut from abductions and violent home invasions, to getting attacked by mountain lions or falling into ravines. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is some of the scariest television you will ever watch. Oh, and it should definitely come with about 400 trigger warnings.
Despite the jaw-dropping amount of distress involved, I Survived... ends up being somehow both inspiring and a guidebook of sorts about what to do in the most horrendous life-and-death situations imaginable. For example, here are just some of the handy things the show has taught me: if you get bitten by a rattlesnake, you might want to do some bloodletting; don't touch anyone while they're getting electrocuted; never go into the woods without a knife; and if your house is about to get destroyed by a natural disaster, putting on a bicycle helmet won't hurt.
Astonishingly, I soon discovered that I Survived... had a spin-off about the afterlife. Seriously. I Survived... Beyond and Back follows the same formula as the original, only it features people who literally died, saw some crazy shit, and came back with stories to tell. Hear that everyone? Even if you die, there is hope!
I Survived... Beyond and Back isn't all white light, dead relatives, and bliss (though truthfully, there is a lot of that). One lady described meeting aliens who treat the fate of humans like a board game! Another dude described going to actual hell! And meeting Satan! Needless to say, he was relieved to come back to life. "I was the happiest, fresh-out-of-a-coma man ever," he said, not joking in the least.
My love for I Survived... spiraled fast. I found myself browsing Lifetime's On Demand menu as if it was Shudder. Only I quickly realized that Lifetime movies are infinitely more terrifying than anything in the actual horror genre because almost everything on Lifetime is based on something awful that really happened to someone.
There's Girl in the Box -- the true story of a 20-year-old hitchhiker named Colleen Stan who was kidnapped, tortured, and forced to live as a slave for seven years. Seven!
Then there's Cocaine Godmother, in which Catherine Zeta Jones plays drug kingpin, Griselda Blanco. Jones' portrayal of Blanco is actually, legitimately frightening. At one point (spoiler alert!), she even ruthlessly executes two small children.
I'll remind you again: I am talking about Lifetime.
During one binge, when I saw Corey Feldman's face pop up, I thought "Oh good! This'll lighten the mood!" Nope. Feldman's in-depth interview, Moment of Truth, was, in fact, an incredibly depressing exploration of Hollywood's pedophile problem. This, of course, was followed by A Tale of Two Coreys -- an also-incredibly-depressing dramatized account of Feldman, his BFF Corey Haim, and, again, Hollywood's pedophile problem. Grim.
Even when I tried to watch the cheesy (but unashamedly heteronormative) TV movies Lifetime is so famous for, I noticed an unexpected edge of brutality. The Wrong House is basically a guidebook on how to ruin the lives of other, happier people, and Pregnant at 17 features two women forced to beat a kidnapper about the face and head with a shovel.
Sure, in the end, Lifetime movies are a world in which the problems are enormous but totally solvable; where good people always triumph over evil; and where everyone gets a happily-ever-after... but were they always this crazy?
I'd be lying if I said Lifetime didn't have its fair share of fluff -- the Little Women and Dance Moms franchises spring to mind -- but even those involve an unreasonable amount of yelling and hostility. (Also, the first and last episode of Little Women: Dallas I attempted to watch featured someone getting hit in the face with a serving tray right off the bat...)