If you live in the U.S. and turn on your TV at any time of day or night, you’re likely to find an episode of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (or AFV, as they call it now) playing. On the chance you’ve never seen it, people send in their videos of themselves, or friends or family, doing something stupid for the amusement of viewers everywhere. A lot of these involve injuries of some sort, mostly things like someone getting mistaken for a piñata, or some dude getting kicked in the groin. A friend of mine who moved to Mexico a few months back sent me an e-mail one day with a video attached. “You will not believe this,” it said. “Looking for something to watch late last night and found this playing on a satellite channel that seems to work randomly. Caught some of it on my cell.” If I had gotten this e-mail from anyone else, I would have deleted it thinking it was either a hacked e-mail or a prank. But my friend is a lifelong insomniac with a taste for the weird so I decided to go ahead and watch it.
Apparently it was a Christmas-themed episode; the host Tom Bergeron was wearing a Santa hat, and decorated trees adorned the set. The first of many strange things was that there was no audience; just Tom, sitting in a chair and smirking as he introduced the videos. The sound on the video was muffled, but I could hear that Tom’s voice had been dubbed over in Spanish.
The videos were all Christmas-themed, and got progressively more disturbing. The ones in the file included:
1. A man is decorating a tree out on a balcony. He’s standing on a chair, putting the star at the top when a man dressed as Santa pops out and scares him. The man is startled and, losing his footing, falls over the balcony and down to the ground. One of his arms is obviously dislocated.
2. A young boy is opening a present, and pulls out wads and wads of white tissue paper from the box. He finally gets to what’s wrapped inside: an animal trap with wide metal teeth that snap down on his wrist. He screams and flails as his blood spurts out on the tissue paper and the camera.
3. A blond woman, staring straight into the camera, grins as she crushes a colorful glass ornament in her bare hand and then shoves it into her mouth, chewing. She repeats this a few times, laughing with her mouth full of glass shards and blood.
4. A group of kids are singing carols in front of a fireplace as their family members watch. One man who’s putting up stockings on the mantle behind them misfires his nail gun and several go into one of the girl’s eyes, attaching her to the mantle. The other children stop and stare at her. Thinking the songs are done, the adults start to clap.
5. A crowd is gathered in front of a home, admiring a “live” nativity scene. A car drives up and a man dressed as a ninja jumps out and begins to shoot randomly. The woman dressed as Mary drops the “Baby Jesus,” who gets trampled in the melee.
6. A family is trying to put together a metal Christmas tree sculpture, with one man holding all the rods together while another inserts new ones from the top. The final rod doesn’t go in correctly, and instead rips through the man’s face. His daughter is standing behind him and gets splattered with his blood.
After that last video, the episode ended with Tom saying goodnight—none of the usual contest where the three best videos are picked and one of them wins ten grand. I can’t imagine any audience that would sit through that, much less vote for them—maybe that’s why there wasn’t one?
I think it was a hoax or sick parody, with a host who looked like Tom Bergeron but wasn’t really him. But my friend swears it was, and has seen similar episodes of other American shows on that same channel. She can’t tell me what it is because it’s not listed anywhere in her satellite guide, and it usually doesn’t work. She can’t even look up the number, because she can only find it by flipping through channels. Pressing “Info” when she has found it makes it stop working. She’s recorded some of the other stuff she’s seen, but I asked her not to send any more to me.