You learn a lot about yourself watching trashy television. This week during my continued the exploration into the murky depths of the cable grid, I really learned a lot. I learned that I occasionally root for those on the wrong side of the law. That I sometimes root for those who are quick to resort to violence. And, more than everything, I always — without question — root for those that accessorize with American flag bandanas.
How did I come to these conclusions? Check it:
Premise: Entrap criminals into stealing vehicles. Tape it.
My Take: This show is some bullshit.
The police drive a brand-new Cadillac Escalade to a neighborhood known for car theft, park it on the side of the road unlocked with the keys in the ignition, wait there for someone to steal it, videotape the whole thing, and then take them to jail. That’s some bullshit, right? I’m no lawyer, but I do have Google, and when I looked up the legal definition for “entrapment” this is what I got:
- “The act of government agents or officials that induces a person to commit a crime he or she is not previously disposed to commit.”
Now, I’m not trying to contend that this is a show about police officers breaking the law — I doubt they would agree to be followed by a television crew were that the case. I’m contending that this is a show about police officers abusing a legal loophole and arresting people who committed crimes only because said crimes fell right in their laps. Basically, this show doesn’t document people looking to steal cars, it documents cars looking for people to steal them.
I have only seen one episode, but a clear pattern quickly emerged.
- 1. Police park a car in a bad neighborhood.
2. Someone walks by and checks it out.
3. That person uses a sleeve to open the door and start the car.
4. That person drives for about a mile and realizes he or she is being followed.
5. That person is boxed in by squad cars and handcuffed.
6. That person says they are just moving the car.
In the episode I watched, everyone who was arrested had a criminal record, but I found myself wanting nothing more than for them to evade capture. There was something charmingly bumbling about these criminals. For example, it was impossible not to root for the woman that complained the car didn’t have gas in it, the girlfriend that called her man “stupid” seven times in their three minutes in the car, and the young man who giggled when he realized he had been set up, and had this cheery exchange with the arresting officers:
- Officer: “Did anybody give you permission to drive or take this car?”
Entrapped Criminal: “I gave myself permission.”
Officer: “So you gave yourself permission to drive?” [Laughing.]
Entrapped Criminal: “Basically” [Smiling.]
Officer: “You knew you took a car that wasn’t yours?”
Entrapped Criminal: “Yeah.”
Officer: “What do you think about that now?”
Entrapped Criminal: “Sucks.”
Watching these soon-to-be criminals circle the cars like a shark, look around to see if anyone is watching, and finally decide, “Screw it, I’m doin’ this,” you ask yourself how you would react if you were presented with the same scenario. My guess is that the majority of Grantland’s readership would leave the car be — but what if you saw $1,000 cash on the sidewalk? Found a wallet? A nice leather coat? What is the amount of money you come upon where you stop thinking, Lucky me and start thinking, I should probably report this to the authorities? Honestly, until I wrote that question I hadn’t really considered what my answer was. After 20 minutes of careful consideration, I have decided that if I found $9,999 in the middle of the sidewalk and there was no one around I would take it, $10,000 and I would report it. Wait, I’m totally lying, I think the real answer is, “I would take as much as I could carry and then probably return for the rest.” [Editor’s note: As with all Jacoby Industries scenarios, this one is (apparently) dependent on it being 10 grand in Sacajawea coins.]
Anyway, where is your limit? Leave your answer in the comments. I’m curious.
Will this show be included in the GRTFL?: Nope. But it is worth watching once just to see the reaction of the car thieves when they realize what they thought was too good to be true was exactly that. My favorite from this episode: “Damn, I’m going to jail tonight, I should have never took this bleep.”
Network: A & E
Premise: Rednecks get rich, television network points cameras at them, hilarity ensues.
My Take: I sit next to Jay Caspian Kang in the office. Jay is not so secretly a connoisseur of a lowbrow TV show or two — so when I decided to delve into Duck Dynasty, I asked him for his take. He quickly responded, “it’s too fake.” And he’s right. Here’s why.
There is a level of disbelief-suspension that anyone watching these shows has to employ to properly enjoy them. They’re not documentary films. You are not watching surveillance video. They’re really all semi-scripted productions … only to varying degrees. I can enjoy a Basketball Wives argument clearly arranged by the producers because I know that, deep down, there is some real emotional conflict between the ladies who are removing their shoes and scanning the room for tools that can be brought to bear in battle. I can’t enjoy an argument between Lamar Odom and Rob Kardashian because I know the entire thing is a put-on, a farce scripted and blocked for camera. The difference is subtle — not something that you consciously acknowledge, but something you feel. Watching the Kardashians makes me feel less like a spectator and more like a sucker. I was shocked that this one might have the same problem.
Duck Dynasty is centered around Louisiana’s Robertson family — newly minted millionaires by way of their duck call and decoy business, Duck Commander. At first glance, you see them as more ZZ Toppelgangers in the mold of our friends the Swamp People, but once you hear them in interviews and interacting you realize there are some brains behind the beards. They are a charming, funny, loving, family-oriented, and savvy bunch. Willie, the American-flag bandana’d honcho at Duck Commander, is especially compelling. But the problem with this show is that instead of using a The Osbournes model — where the cameras capture small, organic dramatic events and the editing turns them into big dramatic ones — they opted for a Kardashian model in which they create big dramatic events and the editing attempts to make them feel organic. Terrible call.
In the episode that I sampled, Willie, for no reason, decided to buy a winery. Online. Without ever visiting it. Guess what? It didn’t have grapes. Shocking. Guess what else? They already planned a tasting. WHAT ON EARTH ARE THEY GOING TO DO? The problem with this is that these people make products to assist duckicide, they are not any kind of thespians. Willie isn’t skilled enough to convince me that purchasing a winery and scheduling a tasting is motivated by his love of fine wines. Once you realize that the motivation of the show’s characters is built on bullshit that some producer seven years out of NYU film school dreamed up, it’s impossible to enjoy their charm the same way. Reality TV producers are like referees: They are doing their job best when you don’t notice them. This show is watchable because the glimpses of the real relationships, wit, and love shared in the Robertson family shine through whatever constructed storyline they’ve been burdened with, but one can’t help but wonder what the results would be were the left to their own devices. Methinks that as an audience we will soon tire of the constructed reality that these overproduced shows of late have been feeding us. I predict that the reality TV genre will slowly start to slide back to its documentary roots. Or I have a terrible read and the Kardashians will be America’s First Family. This could really break either way.
Will this show be featured in the GRTFL?: Nope. But my outfits will now feature American-flag bandanas. Thanks for that, Willie.
The lone show left in the GRTFL is holding its own. Just to catch you up, when we last saw the Basketball Wives, Jennifer got slapped in the face by Evelyn’s assistant/friend Nia and Evelyn was on top of the table about to join the fray Superfly Snuka–style.
Evelyn (Basketball Wives, Kang), 80 points: So there Evelyn is, on top of a table about to Superfly Smash Jennifer. Naturally, I’m wondering what she’s thinking as she looks down at Jennifer below her, calculating the correct angles and velocity to maximize the damage of her landing. As a matter of fact, I wondered so much that my five best guesses are this week’s GRTFL top five. So here are the top five things that Evelyn may be thinking as she climbs the table and prepares to launch herself at Jennifer, listed from “I could see that” to “Yeah, I could probably see that, too; that chick is a crazyball”:
5. “I hope I don’t kill her; I only want to maim her.”
4. “Climbing this table seemed like a good idea on paper but now that I am up here … not so much. Maybe I should just pass Shaunie the salt or something and play it off cool.”
3. “Honestly, I want no part of this and am only up here to look tough. The production security better intervene soon.”
2. “If I pop my implants, I am definitely going bigger with the replacements.”
1. “Wait, this is totally the wrong approach and I should reconsider. There is no way I can lodge her nose bone into her brain from higher ground.”
Before Flight 305 on Evelyn Airlines departed nonstop for Jennifer International, it was intercepted by security and she was quickly subdued (25 points). While security could keep her from physically assaulting her target, it didn’t stop her and her assistant/friend Nia from verbally abusing Jennifer (5 points), an onslaught that ended when Nia landed the final verbal jab: “You talking all that bullbleep and that’s why your breath stank.” With Jennifer gone, Evelyn did that embarrassing thing where you are so mad you cry (5 points). I remember doing this once in junior high in the principal’s office. It is impossible to wipe tears away and look tough at the same time. Impossible. The fight got so bad that Tami, the most volatile and violent of the Basketball Wives, reflected on it with this: “The end of the day, child, I was worn out. I can’t hang with these bitches. I am not going to another event. I just don’t want to know y’all.” Tami saying she can’t hang with you because you fight too much is like Metta World Peace saying he doesn’t want you on his team because you’re too unpredictable.
This season, Evelyn has been plugging her cosmetic line (20 points), her book release (20 points), and planning her wedding to fellow reality star-slash-wide receiver-slash all-around crazypants Chad Ochocinco. This episode she held her teary (5 points) birthday party at her house in a room that was branded via a sign on the wall as “Chad’s Place.” Chad’s Place featured a stripper pole. There are moments when you watch these shows and say to yourself, “Man, they bicker over who should clean the dishes just like me and my lady do; their life isn’t that different than mine.” And then there are moments when you say to yourself, “Wait! This dude has a room in the house that he shares with his fiancée for the sole purpose of hosting strippers? His life couldn’t be more different from mine.”
Jennifer (Basketball Wives, House), 55 points: Jennifer had a big GRTFL week. She yelled (5 points), she cried (5 points), she plugged some bullshit lip gloss line (20 points), and, most important, she broke new ground in GRTFL scoring history. Ladies and gentlemen, the first-ever GRTFL lawsuit! (25 points) This lawsuit has brought to the surface two drastically different approaches to conflict resolution among the Basketball Wives. First, Jennifer’s:
Jennifer: “If anybody knows me they know that I am not that chick that has to be fighting. I have never had to do it and I am not going to start now. What I will do is have the authorities involved. You hit me in my face, and I am a spokesmodel for my brand. So you hit me in my face so therefore I have to sell my product with my face. So don’t think that it is cool that you can put your hands on people and there will be no repercussions. So you are going to have to deal with it in the courts. For me … I don’t fight with my hands.”
Kenya: “You fight with your attorneys.”
Jennifer: “I DO WHAT THE WHITE PEOPLE DO, OK?”
And now Tami’s:
Tami: “To me, personally, I think the filing of the police report is the most ridiculous bitch-ass bleep that anybody could ever do. Where I come from, you take your ass whoopin’ and you keep it moving.”
Hard not to side with Tami on this one.