It's easy to like Canadians and optimists, so people quickly take to the guys in MTV's "The Buried Life."
These are four young guys who travel the country -- two countries, actually -- crossing things off their quirky to-do list. Along the way, they also help others.
Here's a story I wrote about them, followed by a list of upcoming air times. I don't usually put my feature stories in this blog space, but time is tight (the series has already started) and I want the story to get around. Here it is:
Staring at that blank slate known as
adulthood, four friends were stumped.
“It was always, 'What do you want to
do with your life?'” recalled Jonnie Penn.
None of them were sure, so they made a
list. Then that list became an adventure and a TV show and more. “For
us, it's become a way of living our life,” said Duncan Penn,
That's what we now see on MTV's “The
Buried Life.” The guys roam two countries – the U.S. and their
native Canada – trying to cross off the 100 items on their
Some are quite easy – “get a
tattoo” ... “plant a tree” ... “donate blood.” Some are
nearly impossible – “play ball with Obama” … “host Saturday
Night Live” … “go to space.”
A few may not be advisable – “swim
with sharks” … “tell a judge: “You want the truth? You can't
handle the truth?'”
And two are kind of repetitious –
“kiss Rachel McAdams” and “approach the most beautiful girl
you've ever seen and kiss her.”
The former – inserted after Jonnie
Penn saw McAdams in “The Notebook” – is still pending. And the
latter? “We keep crossing it off and putting it back on,” Duncan
This is flexible, Dave Lingwood said.
“The list changes. We'll add things on it; we'll take things off.”
The guys – Ben Nemtin, Lingwood and
the Penns – grew up in middle-class families in Victoria, near
Vancouver. They went to college (McGill, Concordia, Victoria) while
finding temporary jobs. “Jonnie and I worked in the oilfields,”
Still, they wavered on what to do with
the rest of their lives. The list was born.
The first – “open the 6 o'clock
news” – was accomplished quickly, so the enthusiasm grew. The
guys planned a two-week venture in a 1977 RV. “We managed to get 23
things off the list,” Jonnie said.
They've been doing that, off-and-on,
for three years now. Some things came easily – for one day, Nemtin
rattled around all day in a suit of armor – and some didn't. It
took hours to achieve “win and shout 'Bingo' at a bingo hall.”
A detour came when they helped a
formerly homeless man get a truck for his business. More good deeds
followed, Nemtin said, including getting computers for a Los Angeles
school. “We hit Venice Beach and fundraised enough money to get two
new computers for these kids in Watts. It was cool.”
The project had transformed: Every time
the guys crossed off something, they would help someone else. “It's
the way the baby-boomers have raised us ….We are a very idealistic
generation,” Jonnie said.
One important item – “get a college
degree” – is still pending, but another, “start a TV show,”
has been accomplished. The title “The Buried Life” came from an
1852 poem by Matthew Arnold. An impressive trailer – made by Jonnie
Penn on a home computer – reached the company (Reveille) that also
produces “The Office,” “Ugly Betty” and “The Biggest
It took the show to MTV, which had been
planning an image change. “The Buried Life,” said MTV's Tony
DiSanto, represents “everything that we had been talking about and
where we wanted to go.”
The guys have resisted taking the easy
way out, telling people that this is for a TV show. Most things are
done on the sly, with hidden cameras.
Still, full-disclosure is sometimes
required. If the guys do get to play ball with Barack Obama, the
Secret Service will be aware of the cameras.
“The Buried Life”
– New episodes debut at 10 p.m.
Monday on MTV; the first, Jan. 18, was “Attend a party at the Playboy Mansion”
– The second – “Make a Toast at a
Stranger's Wedding” debuted this week (Jan. 25). It reruns often,
including 6-7 a.m. Friday, 5-6 a.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.
– The next new one, Feb. 1, is “ask
out the girl of your dreams.”
– The full list, subject to change,
is at www.theburiedlife.com