• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Jesse James Is a Dead Man -- TV Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Empty

Spike's "Jesse James Is a Dead Man" is probably the most boring show ever made about a guy trying to kill himself.

The problem isn't necessarily the stunts undertaken by host Jesse James, who in his spare time from running the West Coast Choppers bike shop likes to drive fast and live recklessly. The real issue is that the series goes to such pains to sell itself as edgy and dangerous that it comes off as anything but. After every breathlessly narrated setup that posited whether Jesse would indeed finally die (spoiler: he doesn't), I couldn't help but hear Homer Simpson shouting, "To the extreme!"

Each episode in the series will involve Jesse undergoing a potentially lethal stunt just because. In the opener, Jesse has his sights set on the nitro bike, an honest-to-God rocket-fueled motorcycle that actually killed a buddy of his in an accident a few years earlier. But one of the show's weaknesses is that James' training, prep and eventual stunt are dragged out over an hour, meaning he winds up doing a lot of tangential things that aren't related to the main event. To get accustomed to higher G forces, James rides in an F-16; to know what it feels like to be in a fire, he's immolated while wearing a special suit; and to see what an accident looks like, well, they just blow up a bike and mannequin. Even James doesn't pretend there's any scientific value to that one: "Come on, we're just blowing shit up. That's what we're doing."

Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

James eventually gets to ride the nitro bike, and after a few false starts, he makes it through the quarter-mile run. That's it. Roll credits. The point of the show isn't to be suspenseful, or even to be entertaining. It's just another Spike show where stuff gets blowed up real good. As such, it's hard to get too worked up over its mediocrity. It's not groundbreaking reality TV, but it's also not the offensive dreck usually associated with the genre. It's a dull but harmless hour of explosions, ideal for background noise while doing laundry, hungover. James would probably approve.

Airdate: 10 p.m., Sunday May 31 (Spike)
Production companies: Pay Up Sucker Prods., Base Prods., Spike
Cast: Jesse James
Executive producers: Jesse James, John Brenkus, Mickey Stern, Hildie Katibah, Kevin Lee
Co-executive producer: Rob Dorfmann
Producers: Carlos Aragon, Jason Hollis, Jonathan Pezza, JD Pruess, Geoff Davis
Director of photography: Scott Carithers