“It’s just like comedy!” Todd Robbins always quips in his act, and hearing about his new show True Nightmares , which premiers on Investigation Discovery next Wednesday at 10pm (EST), I can’t help thinking “It’s just like vaudeville.”
In that, this guy has so much show biz knowledge and experience by this point he could host a tv show of any sort backwards and in his sleep. (Come to think of it, isn’t that how Ed Sullivan used to do it? At least, that’s how Will Jordan used to do Ed Sullivan doing it!) Much like that first generation of vaudeville and Catskills-educated TV people, Milton Berle, Ken Murray, Red Skelton, etc etc etc, this guy is so ready for this. If you threw a pie at him, he’d probably go, “Should I catch it on the left cheek? Right cheek? The middle of my face? Want me to catch it in my hands?”
For the Mad Marchioness and myself, the idea of Todd Robbins hosting a show on ID is like the chocolate landing in the peanut butter to make a Reese’s. If you do a search under Todd’s name on this blog, you’ll see that we’re very much on record as being big fans of his. And…at home, the ID network just happens to be our default television. (In case you’re new around here, ID is Discovery’s 24 hour true crime network, which deals almost exclusively in true tales of murder and deception. I know that little factoid makes us seem crazy, twisted and middle-aged all at the same time, but, well…we are those things! We probably watch that network 10-15 hours a week, together. We blogged here about our enthusiasm for Lt. Joe Kenda: Homicide Hunter — and were thrilled beyond propriety to hear from the actor who plays Kenda in the re-enactments. Then a few months ago, we met Christopher Mason, host of Behind Mansion Walls at a party and were so jazzed we practically knocked him over. He now has a copy of No Applause, complete with a gushing inscription, unless he handed it off to his doorman.
Anyway, third time’s a charm. We’re chomping at the bit to see this show. I spoke with Todd this morning and he gave me the skinny. In his own words:
“A few years ago I got an e-mail from the director of development at Discovery Studios and he said, ‘We’re thinking about some sort of sideshow series. And when we research ‘sideshow’, your name comes up all over the place. You’re someone America might follow down the path of looking at the world of sideshows, you could be the Anthony Bourdain of sideshows.”
So they came to New York and shot a teaser reel in Times Square and Coney Island and captured a nice little cross section of modern sideshow with Albert Cadabra and Donny Vomit and Heather Holliday and Jellyboy the Clown. But they couldn’t sell it. So the development director said is there anything else you do? Luckily we had lots of video footage of [my spook show] Play Dead, directed by Teller of Penn and Teller. So we took that to ID. And we realized we kind of do the same thing — real stories about dark people, but we do it a little different, we make it creepy and fun. And we took a meeting with the development people and pitched the idea that, in addition to doing the usual intros and outros and voice-overs, I would also be a ghost in the re-enactments, as a hook for the audience to get them into the story. The camera pulls back and I’m there as an Unseen Angel of Death. And they liked the idea and were willing to try it, but they were a little leery.
But we did a pilot. It’s an hour long show. There are three stories, and I host in the tradition of Hitchcock or Rod Serling or One Step Beyond. And when the focus group tests came back they were through the roof. It tested better than any series they ever tested, and as host I got a perfect score.”
The first of the six episode airs this coming Wednesday. Todd told me about some of the segments they worked on, and they were mighty entertaining: one about a compulsive hoarder whose wife went missing…another about a Jazz Age sausage king who got tired of taking lip from his sweetie….there’s a teaser here on their web site: http://www.investigationdiscovery.com/tv-shows/true-nightmares/
Also, Todd will be hosting ID’s Halloween Scare-a-thon…in which he’ll be posing three Urban Legends to the audience under the title “Trick or Truth?” And they’ll be showing several episodes of True Nightmares back to back. Can’t wait! You ain’t heard the last on this subject!