Monday, February 28, 2011

Reality Television's 'Cheaters' is Fake

I'm someone who has lived in Oakland for about 3.5 years now. I love what I do everyday. I like hanging out with my friends, and maybe having a few drinks on the weekend. That's it really. Well, I'll also admit to enjoying so-called "reality" television, which sometimes caters to the dark human desire to live out revenge fantasies. Most anyone who's been jilted, especially in love, has dreamed of getting even. It's why shows like Cheaters are so readily watched: you locate your significant other and have them followed by private investigators, who covertly record their rendezvous. Then you surround the target with a television crew of 15-20, along with a vocal leading man who takes charge for you and orchestrates the ambush of the person you feel has hurt you. You overcome the protestations of your target with a video recording of the infidelity, embarrass the heck out of that denying, unfaithful, lying liar, and, if the planets are aligned correctly, a shoving match or physical altercation may ensue. As I grew accustomed to watching the show, I realized the real payoff was the thrill of not knowing what would happen next, and I'll confess to craning my neck, out of morbid curiosity, to see if the confrontation would turn violent, much like you might expect fisticuffs or a brawl at a hockey game, crashes at a race-car event, or some other dramatic development of extreme behavior we humans can all process and talk about the next day.

The host of Cheaters who leads the charge to surprise your cheating lover, and plead your case, was once Tommy Habeeb (stage name Tommy Grand), but, since 2002, it's been Joey Greco (Clark Gable III took over starting in 2012). Joey was present during some episodes I still remember, such as the one where Steve French, caught, spooked, cornered and insulted, kicked in a car's passenger window, and then decked his accusatory girlfriend Rene Reardon in the face, or the episode where entrepreneur Aaron Rodriguez, in a relationship with a subordinate female employee, Emily Cruz, discovers he had kissed his girlfriend's mouth, just after she had performed a sex act on another male coworker, Jay Evans, right under Aaron's nose. Earlier, we saw that subordinate male employee urinate in the office coffee; we then see the man-being-cheated-on, Aaron, drink the very same coffee laced with urine:Let's not forget the explosive confrontation that interrupted Dalia Santiago's outdoor marriage ceremony, as it slowly dawns on the bride in her wedding dress that the man she was about to marry had been carrying on with Jamie Isaacs and had been recorded picking up a one-night stand at a saloon:
Good times, good times... Yet, come to find we the Cheaters audience may all have been cheated on, by Cheaters! According to the Houston Press:
Actors don't need to be tailed by Gomez for weeks on end. They don't present security risks, and they don't need counseling. They also tend to be younger and better looking than real cheaters, who often will not consent to allow the show to air their faces.

The bogus cheaters interviewed for this story say they've never heard of Goldstein and that Gomez stressed to them never to reveal to Grand or the camera crew that they were acting.

One of the actors, Michelle, met Gomez last fall. "What he told me was that some of the episodes are real, but...a lot of people didn't want to be on the show once they'd been busted, so they would do these ringer episodes to supplement the show," says Michelle, who asked not to be identified by her last name.
If the reports are true, it's all very troubling, for it means Bobby Goldstein was trying to hide information from his business partner, Tommy Habeeb. I think it's telling that when the Houston Press report first came out in 2002, alleging falsehood on the part of Cheaters, Tommy Habeeb and Bobby Goldstein parted ways shortly after because Tommy had "differences with the production company"; I can even imagine the confrontation that occurred between Habeeb and Goldstein, with Tommy demanding that Bobby be straight with him, then Tommy and Bobby have their falling out, and Tommy leaves the company. Two reports from Inside Edition in 2009 seem to indicate that the infamous program where Tommy's replacement Joey Greco got stabbed was also staged, and when Inside Edition sets upon the man himself, rolling up on and presenting to this frequent accuser apparent evidence that seems to support the accusations of fakery and cheating, Joey Greco would neither confirm or deny any specific allegations, such as whether the blood was fake.

I would prefer not to believe these revelations, as I then would need to accept that some of my favorite Cheaters episodes are no more real than professional wrestling. If Cheaters is scripted, then this means that the voyeuristic thrill we get in watching people being secretly captured on camera is based on a false premise, and that it is we, the viewers, who are being had, led on by actors, who knew they were on camera, playing a role. But how can a reality television program broadcast fiction and claim that it's the truth? The same Houston Press article reports:
According to a Federal Communications Commission spokesman, there's no law or regulation against presenting acted-out scenarios as reality on television.
In response to the quiz show scandals of the 1950s, when impropriety was uncovered in rigged game shows, Congress did pass a law, in 1960, amending the Communications Act of 1934, and preventing anyone from fixing quiz shows. Well, apparently, it's not illegal to portray scripted shows as "actual true stories filmed live", even as said program, to this day, claims nothing is staged and every broadcast episode starts out with language reiterating the show is not fake. So, on television at least, you can call it non-fiction and sell it as non-fiction, even if, the truth is, Cheaters is fiction.

1 comment:

  1. I remember as a child when flying to the southern part of the US with my father, there was a show on the telly in our hotel room that depicted wrestling. I'd never really seen anything like it before. But my father explained to me that it wasn't real. He patiently sat for a few minutes pointing out the moves of the characters - showing how they worked in tandem to display scenes of aggression and theatrics. After a few minutes, he carefully asked whether I understood that it was just rubbish to entertain empty minds. I agreed and off went the telly. It was a powerful moment for me as it help form my view on the way I looked at many scenarios in life. In fact, my father's memory came back to mind the day my young son pulled out a strip of scratch cards from the Sunday paper, asking whether he could scratch them to see whether we had won anything. As if my father were beside me, I sat with him, explaining that indeed he would be a winner. I explained what the 'scam' was behind the cards, showing him the 0900 number on the back, which at the time cost £2.00 per minute to call to 'verify' the winning card and the fact we'd be told our 'win' was to be entered into a 'winner's pot' for the final draw - which of course we would win as well, with further numbers to call at escalating costs. My son is in his mid-twenties now and recently reminded me of that moment we shared. Perhaps exploitive and spurious shows such as Cheaters should be watched, at least once, in school, for the purpose of educating young minds how easily they can fall prey to deception. It could help in their future lives.

    Fr B+