On April 2, three days before the Lizzie Borden Chronicles aired, I posted this on my Facebook “Lizzie Borden Chat Page”:
“The Lizzie Borden Chronicles is the new Sharknado. It will have as much to do with the post Trial life of Lizzie Borden as Sharknado has to do with marine biology. Yet their common denominator is ratings. And high ratings create sequels. They are both comedic, tongue in cheek, fraught with blood and guts and appeal to those that favor this genre.
“I concede the Chronicles may have a little entertainment edge because of its campy soundtrack and the sexual component of Christina Ricci’s portrayal of the much maligned Lizzie Borden. I plan to watch it, not only to credibly critique afterwards but hope to see Ricci fly through the air above Fall River, chain saw in hand, slicing off the bell towers of all those long abandoned mills– with Nine Inch Nails playing in the background of course. It could happen.”
I didn’t get around to watching it until late Monday afternoon, and posting a Review has not been a priority in my life. Even when Deborah Allard-Dion, resident writer of all things Lizzie for the Fall River Herald, contacted me for what I thought I could not bring myself to respond right away. However, I now post my impressions.
Nielson ratings showed it to garner only 1.1 million viewers – pretty much at the bottom of the heep for the week’s ratings of shows ending on that Sunday night.
The first two episodes were sent out to TV critics to review and after last Sunday’s (April 5, 2015) airing of the first episode, the general consensus is that it should get the axe. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “unexceptional trash”.
Introducing real name characters who died prior to the 1892 murders (William Almy) and yet are resurrected as some avaristic business partner who “wants it all”. So far fetched I moaned out loud “Kill me quick, Bill.”
I didn’t expect Christina to play the role of Lizzie Borden with the nuances of a Meryl Streep but I also did not expect her to go so far off the rails. It was like Anna Nichol Smith’s stupor meets Baby Jane Hudson’s vengeance. Her portrayal reminded of Dorothy Parker’s famous one-liner review of Tallulah Bankhead, “Her acting ran the gamut of A to B.”
We can at least feel sorry for the real life Anna Nichol Smith and the fictional Baby Jane. We can even find a way to rationalize T.V. “Dexter’s” acts has having some social redemption. But with Ricci’s Lizzie? Not so much. She plays her as totally self-serving for the sake of self preservation. Not an attractive quality we want to see in our Villains.
And the music? More appropriate would have been Miley Cyrus’ “I came in like a Wrecking Ball”. What? No money budgeted for Billboard Top 100 royalties? Seems the budget was blown on costumes, that big orange house (supposedly “Mapelcroft”) and all the TV promos to generate excitement for the first episode.
Casting name/face actors, i.e., Jonathan Banks fresh off Breaking Bad and appearing regularly on Better Call Saul, is just a ploy to get people to watch. He’s probably gonna be killed before Episode 3.
There was no rhythm or pace to sustain any suspense or intrigue – more like Scattershot and Soundblaster, symbolically making our eyes and ears bleed.
I doubt it will make much of an impact on driving tourism to Fall River or the B&B certainly not like the notoriety of ghost-hunting and paranormal investigations shows have done in the past. Had they used Fall River backgrounds/locations or even 92 Second Street exteriors as POV’s it would have enticed viewers and resonated because it would be showing the actual location. People like to visit places, occupy the same space in a different time, where actual history or something infamous took place. They like to ooooh and awww and be simultaneously thrilled and reflective about being there. But I imagine there may be people going up and down Second Street in Fall River looking for a blue and white house. or driving up and down French Street looking for an orange mansion.
Richard Behrens, author of the smartly written series Lizzie Borden Girl Detective, commented about the program with this added post script: “P.S. You are trying to tell me that the police searched the Borden house and didn’t find the dead baby in the basement? And when they searched the barn looking for Billy Borden, they didn’t climb up the ladder to the second floor? There were gaps in the plot logic you could park your car in.”
The Serious Issue of Why I’m So Against This Series
The primary reason I dislike this series is not so much for its lack or even a feeble attempt at any historical accuracy whatsoever, but the irreputable harm the Lifetime Channel has already done to the factual Lizzie Borden. Now another new generation who Tweet more than they read believe the characterization of Lizzie Borden – to a considerable extent anyway – as is portrayed.
All those goofy legends and misinformation have been further imbedded in the uneducated viewing public’s mind. As Michael Martins said, the FRHS will be further challenged in correcting the misconceptions and false perceptions of the case – as will the staff at the B&B. As to the LB Chronicles as entertainment value – I enjoyed Sharknado more. As to any artistic quality of the series, I think American Horror Story and Bates Motel do a better job.
Lizzie has long been portrayed as a one dimensional psycho sociopath wielding a bloody axe. She has been cemented in the minds of the general public via that inaccurate quatrain; she has been depicted in hundreds of online images so far removed from the actual Lizzie when there is an abundance of easily accessible sources from which to learn the truth about this woman. Lifetime Movie Channel and the Lizzie Borden Chronicles can only add fodder to further regurgitations of gross misiniformation.
I want people to know the real Lizzie Borden and the best book on that subject is the Fall River Historical Society’s Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River.
I want the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum to stay in business, not just because its the best bang for the buck of any B&B, but because people can occupy the same space where Lizzie lived and reflect upon how her life at the time she lived there. The furniture and fixtures are immaculately maintained and so closely resemble how the rooms were in Lizzie’s time that it invites your imagination to transport yourself to that era.
I would love for people to explore the Fall River Historical Society about the world Lizzie lived in and her town’s history. They have the world’s largest collection of Lizzie Borden related material, including objects of evidence presented at her Trial. The staff will now have to exert an even greater effort in correcting all the “wrongs” shown in the Lizzie Borden Chronicles to all those that call and visit with their questions based on what they’ve seen in the series.
On Sunday evening last, same day the Chronicles aired, person(s) unknown defaced the Andrew J. Borden monument. While understandable outrage has been expressed, no one has remarked on the subliminal symmetry represented here. By that I mean here you have a grotesque “artistic” expression plastered over the “Borden family”. The same could be said for the series, in my opinion.
Below is the monument a few days after the story broke in the Fall River Herald News. ” Blast Off Surface Restoration, a Fall River company that specializes in coating removal, including headstone cleaning. Company owner Jeremy Larkin cleaned up the Borden monument at no cost to Oak Grove Cemetery” reported Deborah Allard Dion..
If this were a forgiving review I would like to think of the cleaning of the monument as further symbolism — sort of like wiping the slate clean of a dismal Episode 1, giving us hope for Episode 2.. Not likely. Not very likely at all.