'50 Ways to Kill Your Mother': TV Review

Courtesy of Discovery
Surprisingly sweet

Irish presenter Baz Ashmawy and his 71-year-old mother take on a globe-spanning bucket list of extreme activities

Another day, another rebrand. The latest channel to make the switch is Discovery Fit & Health (itself a rebrand of FitTV), which will be changing over to Discovery Life (that's DLIF, not DILF) beginning Jan. 15. It's also celebrating its life title with death — at least, possible death.

Though Discovery Life — which the Discovery brand is hoping will attract a wider audience than Fit & Health — will carry over several programs, such as N.Y. ER and Untold Stories of the ER, the channel also plans to launch a slate of original content, such as Outrageous Births: Tales From the Crib.

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For now, it is an overseas acquisition that stands as the channel's most promising program: 50 Ways to Kill Your Mother. Despite its sensationalist title (Sky1 in England ran it as the slightly different 50 Ways to Kill Your Mammy), the show is surprisingly sweet. In it, Baz Ashmawy, a well-known presenter and travel show host in Ireland, teams up with his 71-year-old mother, Nancy, for a new take on globe-trotting series. Six hourlong episodes feature Ashmawy dreaming up stunts and convincing his mother to join in, as he seeks to push her out of her comfort zone.

Though the hyperactive and wise-cracking Ashmawy is charming and likable, it is Nancy who is the true star. She speaks plainly and doesn't like to make a fuss, but she'll shoot her son in the back with a Taser if that's what she's called to do (and she is, under duress handled with stoicism). 

In the first episode alone, Ashmawy has Nancy firing off guns, playing a roulette table in Vegas with her pension money, driving a stunt car and skydiving. The first three events are far more neutral than they sound, but the series' lighthearted attitude attempts to elevate the excitement. As Ashmawy helps Nancy down out of the van at the shooting range, the sun glints off her granny glasses. But soon, she's in a Rambo-esque stance (with Edith Piaf playing in the background) firing away with abandon. When Ashmawy checks in on her afterward, her reaction is mild: "Sense of achievement, yeah," she says. "But don't push your luck." 

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50 Ways to Kill Your Mother is a lovely portrait of a mother and son who appear to genuinely enjoy each other's company (without getting too close into "mother/boy" territory). They're also just having fun after both experienced a number of hardscrabble years. And despite Ashmawy's constant joking and teasing, their strong bond is palpable.

Halfway through the skydive, Ashmawy's jovial attitude changes when he becomes concerned about the intensity of what he has asked his mother to do and is shaken and emotional after realizing he could have, indeed, killed her. But back on the ground, the unflappable Nancy, who had been looking forward to the dive — "I'm going to float like a bird" — reassures him, as she stands in her Kill Bill-like jumpsuit: "I'm grand! I'm grand!" And she truly is.

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