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The Buried Life
New Show on MTV Asks Important Question
An article from David R. Smith at TheSource4YM.com
1/8/2010

Throughout their influential history, MTV’s programming has asked plenty of intriguing questions. But their latest show, The Buried Life, may ask the most intriguing one of all:

“What do you want to do before you die?”

MTV’s Version of The Bucket List
If you’ve seen the thought-provoking movie starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson entitled The Bucket List, you’ll have a good idea of what The Buried Life (a.k.a., TBL) is all about. But, instead of using two old men, MTV is using four young studs.

Big shocker, I know.

TBL introduces viewers to four guys: Dave, Ben, and brothers Duncan and Jonnie, who, according to the show’s website, are “four regular guys on a mission to complete a list of ‘100 things to do before you die,’ and to help and encourage others to go after their own lists.”

The Buried Life takes its name from a poem of the same title written by Matthew Arnold in 1852 that talks about acting on one’s true passions rather than keeping them buried. Like most poetry, I got lost in the second stanza, but you can read it here for yourself.

The season premiere is Monday, January 18th at 10:00pm on MTV.

Making the List
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering, “Well, what’s on these guys’ list?”

Some of the items reflect the typical ambitions of college-aged guys, like “kiss Rachel McAdams (#55)” and “do a sketch with Will Farrell (#46).” However, other to-dos on their list may surprise you…especially since it’s for a show on MTV. For instance, the boys have also developed a desire to “help someone build a house (#13)” and “pay for someone’s groceries (#34).”

Here are a few more items on their list:

  • #19: Write a book.

  • #23: Learn how to play an instrument.

  • #49: Take a stranger out for dinner.

  • #58: See a dead body.

  • #68: Swim with sharks. (Umm…if they’re not careful, they could check off #58 and #68 at the same time!)

  • #95: Play ball with Obama.

  • #100: Go to space.

You can view their entire list – and its progress – on their site.

The show’s trailer gives a pretty solid synopsis of the show, and also proves that their journey is about more than just skydiving and bull riding. In fact, several scenes from the show’s various trailers hint that the boys find more fulfillment in helping others than they find in completing their own fun list of to-dos.

So Jesus was right after all; it IS more blessed to give than receive. (Acts 20:35).

Good Questions
On their F.A.Q. page under “About,” they answer the burning question: Why? Here’s what they have to say:
    “It’s complicated. Life moves fast and we wanted to slow down and enjoy it. To do that we had to ask ourselves some important questions, most importantly: What do I need to achieve or experience before I die? When we turned the question on strangers, we were fascinated with the answers we received. Given the ultimate deadline, people are forced to ignore the day-to-day trivialities that sometimes bury their lives and evaluate their most personal dreams and ambitions. Ultimately, we want to get people excited about doing whatever it is they dream about doing. Why wait? We are also curious to know about the state of our generation, our values and the role we are play in today’s society. Really though, we want to have fun and help people.”
This direct quote clearly shows the tension felt by most students from today’s generation: have fun or help others? Will this show be the perfect fusion of both? We’ll have to wait and see.

But in answering the “why are you doing this” question, they ask another question of themselves: What is my purpose in life? Even though Duncan recently became an ordained minister (#21), I’m still unsure if he’ll tackle that question. And with all this talk about what we achieve before we die, you wonder if they might approach the subject of what happens after we die? Perhaps one of the items on our list should be to prepare for the inevitable…death.

That’s where a relationship with Christ is so crucial in this life. It prepares us for the “now” and the “after.” Our relationship with God isn’t just fire insurance for after we die. It also gives us hope and purpose here and now. (My guess is that MTV won’t be touching on any of these topics.)

Living With The Buried Life
It’s fairly exciting to see a TV show (that teens will actually want to watch) address such an important question. Unfortunately, the network airing that show is MTV. Without a doubt, MTV will attach their crudeness to the show; for example, in one escapade, the boys run down a road completely naked.

If you’re asking yourself what the best recourse is for dealing with The Buried Life, you’re not alone. Other parents and youth workers will be wrestling with it and so will millions of teenage and college viewers. So, what’s best?

  1. Watch at least one episode. Rarely do we at TheSource4YM.com suggest you watch MTV, but this is one of those instances. This show has the makings to be one of MTV’s hits for 2010 – and possibly the decade – so you’ll want to experience it first-hand to keep your finger on the pulse of youth culture. Watching it before your teenagers do is usually the safest, but at the very least, watch it with them. That way you can discuss elements (and subtle messages) that are found in the show.


  2. Answer the life-sized question. These four guys are asking the right question: what is most important before I die? But in my research of the show, I haven’t come across any evidence that leads me to believe they can answer it correctly. That’s where you come in. You’ll need to help the teenagers in your life understand that a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ is the answer to this question. If you need a little help to do so, here is a really good MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSION and also a cool OBJECT LESSON.

By itself, The Buried Life can’t dig up the answer to life’s biggest question. Teenagers need you and the guidance only you can offer them if they are to come to the correct answer. Seize this opportunity from culture to share the truth. Who knows what kind of buried life you might uncover.


David R. Smith David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org. David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.



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