television: Livin' on the Edge 

TBS' "Worst-Case Scenario" is filled with situations you will likely never find yourself in, thank God.

Three years ago a couple of bright and market-savvy guys, Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht, wrote a tongue-in-cheek book called "The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook." Entertaining and somewhat informative, the handbook shot to the top of the lists in the New York Times, L.A. Times and on Amazon.com. The franchise grew to include "Worst-Case" calendars and weekly planners, and now a TV show.

I told you these guys were market-savvy.

But with one eye on how well reality series are (or were) doing and another on audience share, TBS has taken the idea a few steps beyond amusing and informative into blatant, flat-out titillation and absurdity.

Consider the debut episode airing July 10. Hosted by Mike Rowe — whose previous experience on FX, PBS and the History Channel is spotty — the broadcast opens in the command center of the "Worst-Case Institute." (One wonders if they offer research grants.) The first segment focuses on a woman trapped atop a three-story building with no means of escape except to jump. Not surprisingly, the "victim" is a stuntwoman, Danielle Burgio, who's known around the hallowed halls of the Worst-Case Institute as the Gear Girl. Also unsurprisingly, the luscious Miss Burgio is wearing a skintight yellow jumpsuit (for jumping, one supposes) cut so low in front that on a clear day you can see all the way to Gary, Ind.

Her first piece of advice: Look for a Dumpster below to cushion your fall. Her second tip: If there's glass in the Dumpster, look for another Dumpster.

Well, duh!

The rest of the worst-case situations Rowe sets up are equally silly, although by the time our testosterone-laden Bubbas finish the first half of that six-pack, they'll probably seem slightly more realistic to them.

Gear Girl, for example, is given another assignment. She's trapped in a burning building filled with smoke. But have no fear, she just happens to have with her a smoke hood complete with a breathing device. Yeah, I know, Bubba probably carries one with him everywhere — tucked away in his truck.

And the challenges keep on coming. Do you need to repair a broken bike axle? Use a coat hanger and some duct tape. Need to split a log? Hammer at it with the edge of a cast-iron frying pan. (I carry one with me at all times. Don't you?) Need to break through a locked door? Don't slam it with your shoulder like they do in the movies, kick the locking mechanism instead. (I'm not real sure I want Bubba to know how to do that, actually.) Ever caught your clothing on the plane's strut while you were skydiving? Simple. Just remember to let your parachute take the blow when the plane lands at 75 mph in a grass field.

Gosh, I'm glad they told me that. It's always been my greatest fear.

"Worst-Case Scenario" is frivolous frippery. Which is not to say it won't succeed.

Even the Bubbas of the world deserve a show they can call their own. And this, definitely and positively, is it. S

"Worst-Case Scenario" airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on TBS starting July 10.


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