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The Weird — Weirder? — Thing About The Ferrell-Wiig Lifetime Movie

This is the real promo art for a real Lifetime movie starring Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell.
This is the real promo art for a real Lifetime movie starring Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell.

Back on April 1 of this year, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig had secretly filmed a Lifetime movie called A Deadly Adoption. This was kind of confusing, because ... it was April 1, after all. Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig are movie stars. Why would they have filmed a secret Lifetime movie, of all the weird things?

A day later, Varietyreported that because the secret got out, Ferrell now said that they were just going to forget the whole thing, even though it had already been filmed. In other words, the story went, they were going to dump a project for which people had presumably already been paid and on which they had already worked simply because the plan to spring it on the public didn't work out the way they hoped. This seemed to make the story go away, for the most part, despite not seeming particularlycredible from a business perspective. Maybe no one wanted to say so in so many words, but it wasn't clear that anybody cared that much whether they went ahead with it or didn't.

And then in early June, The Hollywood Reporterwas back to tell you that the movie was apparently back on, because a billboard was up advertising it for air June 20. That's ... hey, that's this Saturday night! Perhaps this was the way the news was originally supposed to get out, and Ferrell's statement was their way of trying to scooch the toothpaste back into the tube so they could squeeze it out again later.

By now weary from the experience of a TV movie that was on then off then on again in spite of having no particularly clear reason to exist, television watchers waited to find out whether this would quickly be followed by some triple-deke move in which we'd find out that the whole thing was a Jimmy Kimmel stunt or something of that nature. But apparently not, because now there's a trailer and the airdate really is, apparently, Saturday night. (Lifetime has not allowed screeners for critics. You know I would have watched it the minute its little electrons made their way to me.)

The trailer is spot-on enough as a parody that it isn't so much "funny" as "weird," like spoofing a basketball game by just playing basketball. It proves you understand the ins and outs of playing basketball, but is it hilarious? A Deadly Adoptionwas written by Andrew Steele, who comes from Saturday Night Liveand Funny Or Die, and who wrote Ferrell's spoof comedy Casa de mi Padre. So it is indeed a spoof, from spoof minds, with at trailer as deadpan as possible.

Or, in the alternative, it's a very, very long Saturday Night Livesketch.

But the weird thing about a spoof of this kind of Lifetime movie at this late date is that the ironic viewing of Lifetime movies is already a long and glorious tradition. Any night when this kind of Lifetime movie, the dangerous-sexy kind where there's a happy home until something terrible happens, you can find a thriving community of people who identify, mock, deconstruct, and roll around in every trope. This is already a genre of film that exists probably half for the benefit of people who watch it because it's so goofy. There are entire Twitter accounts — one that I follow is @jenboudinout, who calls herself "Lifetimealicious — where watching Lifetime movies for the sheer spectacle of it is a frequent pastime if not a full-time gig.

The bar for this kind of thing, in other words, is higher than you might think if you're just a genre tourist, or if you are operating on the assumption that Lifetime movies are reliably watched only or mostly by people who think they're of great cinematic merit. When I gleefully reviewed the Lifetime masterpiece Deadly Spatwo years ago, it was as part of a thriving, lively, wonderful community of people not unlike those who watch The Bachelor: much more savvy than it's often given credit for.

If this is just Ferrell and Wiig demonstrating that they know what Lifetime movies look like and being right — if it's essentially what the trailer is — then it will be an interesting and impressive feat of duplication, but it won't necessarily be funny, particularly after about the first commercial break. It's sort of like the Internet-mocking site ; it's funny when it has jokes, and less so when it relies on just knowing how to describe its target and get it right.

In the meantime, we'll have to see whether the regular Lifetime movie audience wants any part of this. In my experience, they really prefer to bring their own jokes.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.