A scene from "Death of a Cheerleader."

A scene from “Death of a Cheerleader.”

There are two types of people in this world: Hallmark Movie Channel people and Lifetime Movie Channel people. Hallmark Movie Channel people are nice people who enjoy uplifting stories about love and families and wildflowers on the plains being tousled by a gentle breeze. I mean:

There’s nothing wrong with liking that, if that’s what you’re into. Meanwhile I’ll be parked in front of the Lifetime channel, watching made-for-TV-movie queens Tori Spelling, Tracey Gold, and Kellie Martin repeatedly lose their shit to a faux-grunge guitar soundtrack.

The implication that a lot of these stories—about murder, revenge, or (gasp!) internet addiction—are “based on a true story” has always made me feel a little icky while watching them, but then I think about the Simpsons episode “Bart the Murderer,” wherein Bart Simpson watches his own life become fodder for a scandal-of-the-week pic titled Blood on the Blackboard: The Bart Simpson Story. The movie is hilariously stupid and has little basis in reality (Neil Patrick Harris plays a bloodthirsty Bart, for example), and all the family can do is watch as Bart’s “true story” is played out for an audience of millions. “Hey, when do we get the check for this?” Homer asks Marge, who replies, “Well, they said they changed it just enough so they don’t have to pay us.” D’oh! If you tripped and stubbed your toe tomorrow, Lifetime would probably immediately obtain worldwide rights to “Toe No: The Suzy Smith Story,” and suddenly your stubbed toe would be filled with nails and able to communicate with spirits from the past. And it would commit murder. Toe murder. But maybe not until the sequel: “Toe No Two: Blood, Sweat, and Toe.” Basically I’m telling you not to stub your toe tomorrow, OK? Just…beware.

Lifetime Original Movies are my horror movies. I can’t do regular horror movies, as I am scared of everything. No gore or monsters for me. But I love drama and suspense almost as much as I love soap plot twists, corny writing, and questionable wigs, so movies like these are perfect:

When horrible things (like MURRRRDERRRR) are blown up to such melodramatic heights, they become to absurd to be afraid of. That’s part of why I love Lifetime so much—it almost feels like some sort of therapy, where I’m exposed to scary stuff in a way I can tolerate and even enjoy, so that the world may eventually seem like a less scary place overall.

I almost said that with a straight face! Don’t worry, I’m not gonna try to find Important Life Lessons in the world’s cheesiest form of entertainment. I will try to persuade you to watch a few of the best Lifetime movies, though. Here, then, a short list of favorites:

1. Face of Evil (1996)

As far as I know, this movie isn’t based on reality in any way. It stars Tracey Gold as a psychopath who kills people and then steals their identities. It’s one of those movies where you alternate between laughing hysterically and screaming, “What?!” and “How could you be so stupid?!” at the screen. It is glorious.

2. Death of a Cheerleader (1994)

Kellie Martin once again plays a murderer, this time one who’s obsessed with a popular classmate played by Tori Spelling, who is so fantastically bitchy in this role that I still love to watch it even though it’s the only Lifetime movie I know of that seems to have stuck pretty close to the facts of the totally awful case it was based on.

3. Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? (1996)

Tori Spelling has a creepazoid boyfriend who is a danger that her mother will not give her permission to sleep with, I guess? This certainly wins hands-down for best/worst movie title ever. What does it meeaaannn? (Big surprise: her mom was right.)

4. Her Last Chance (1996)

It stars Kellie Martin, Jenna Elfman, Patti LuPone, and Sharon from My So-Called Life and features sex and drugs and, of course…murder! Pretty much everything you like in your Sunday afternoon entertainment.

5. Friends ’Til The End (1997)

A Single White Female rip-off that stars the original 90210’s Shannen Doherty and revolves around the fakest ’90s band of all time. The title’s a little misleading here—if Shannen Doherty is playing your main character, you can already be pretty certain that the titular friendship is as good as fucked.

No one is ever trying to be subtle in any of these movies—bitches are truly bitchy, romances are super intense, and every single issue is played as though it’s the end of the world. Everyone is constantly trying to out-act everyone else, which leads to a great deal of screaming and sighing, and everyone—save the hero or heroine—comes across as totally unstable. Everything is just so intense, all the time! It’s sort of like stepping into a Sweet Valley High book, only the Wakefields are psychopathic bank robbers, internet addicts, heroin dealers, and one of them was seen pushing Lila Fowler off the roof of the Dairi Burger, or something.

Whether you want to enter this sordid TV world of mystery, intrigue, and unfortunate sweater sets is really up to you. Unless you stub your toe and it becomes possessed and starts doing crazy shit all the time. Then you have no choice: you have to call Kellie or Tori or Tracey and offer her the role of a Lifetime. ♦