Monday, September 1, 2008

Why I Love the TV Show Cheaters

Cheaters” is one of the greatest shows on television. In it, average people, usually from the Dallas/Ft Worth area hire the Cheaters Detective Agency to gather data on the spouse, boy-, or girlfriend they suspect of cheating on them. Once the evidence is gathered, the complainant is given the chance to confront the cheaters.

Each episode follows basically the same pattern. During a brief interview, the complainant lays out his or her suspicions, with varying degrees of pathos. The person usually already knows the truth, but can’t bring himself to fully face that truth.

Then we get to see the surveillance footage shot by the Cheaters detectives, who have spent sometimes weeks following the cheater around. The footage is often fairly graphic and leaves absolutely no doubt of what the complainant has long suspected. It’s accompanied by an extremely over-ripe voice over that offers snarky comments on the cheater’s activities (“Suspect leans in for a little more sugar from the companion before going home for the night”). The narrator is a man named Robert Magruder, and I don’t know anything about him, but if he doesn’t make $1 million per episode, he is underpaid.

At this point the complainant is briefed by the host of the show. S/he is shown the footage, which often causes deep distress (as you might expect). To soften the blow, the host, Joey Greco, offers his own commentary and narration which is somewhere between the condescending oiliness of a television host and the condescending empathy of a therapist. He’s got a tough job, playing to both the complainant, whose heart is actually breaking right there before him, and the home audience, who needs to be entertained. He does a fantastic job, in my opinion, and is also worth the $1 million per episode that he should be making.

Now that the complainant is sufficiently riled up, the producers set up a confrontation. Apparently, they follow the cheater and his “companion” to some public place, and descend with cameras, boom mics, and bodyguards to capture the violence and reproaches that follow. The reactions of the cheaters and complainants are always heated, at least at first, but it’s most telling to see how everyone’s behaving after a few minutes. Still fighting? Has the cheater run off? Did the cheater apologize and drive home with the complainant? Did the cheater tell the complainant that s/he has no claim on him/her and drove off with the companion?

Following the confrontation, Robert Magruder comes back to summarize the attitudes of the complainants, cheaters, and companions. All too often the complainants and cheaters get back together, but at least the complainants can no longer claim ignorance.

Why do I love this show so much? First of all, it’s entertaining. It’s just a lot of fun to watch, and why else would you watch anything on television? Second, it’s healthy. Being cheated on is a painful experience, believe me I know. If you feel you have a lot invested in a relationship, you have a compelling interest in not learning or at least accepting the truth. The people on the show are almost always suffering from some form of denial, which is easily diagnosed by anyone with no training whatsoever if you just watch the interviews at the beginning of each episode. The Cheaters Detective Agency provides a service in that they actually discover the truth about the infidelity. But they don’t just give the complainants the information and send them on their way. They actually say, Come with us and we’ll confront the bastard right now, with the companion. Suddenly everything gets flipped, and it’s the person who’s being cheated on who has the power in the situation. They get the satisfaction of being given a relatively safe environment, complete with bodyguards, in which to confront the cheater, who has been caught in the act. There’s no room for denial, from anyone involved (although, absurdly, the cheaters do occasionally deny everything, with statements like, “I was just sitting here and she come and sit down beside me,” to “that ain’t me on the tape”). The complainant also has an advocate in the host of the show, who offers exasperated commentary and questioning of the cheater.

The confrontations are the best part of the show, of course, with the most unpredictability and surprise. For instance, the Cheaters team is often recognized during the confrontation, which leads to commentary from onlookers. Most seem to approve of Cheaters, and of catching the cheater in the act. Sometimes the complainant will get romantic offers from strangers seeking to ease his/her pain. Sometimes the cheater gets the sympathy. People are capable of both cruelty and kindness.

And ultimately that’s what I learn from Cheaters, with each episode. My TiVo never has fewer than two or three episodes waiting to be watched. It’s a good time.

Joey Greco, the host of the show, has been yelled at, shoved, punched, kicked and, sadly, stabbed by disgruntled cheaters, as the above clip shows.

He also got hit by a paintball gun.

One of the stranger confrontations. In order to protect his anonymity, the cheater keeps the mask on throughout.

Joey Greco confronts a man caught with his stepson's girlfriend. The stepfather has little to say in his own defense. However, on the actual episode he mentions that men are biologically predisposed to spread their seed. Now, he's got scientific evidence to back it up.

Long after the fact, participants in Cheaters episodes come back to offer insights into their stories, and anything they might have learned from the experience. (Best line: "If you cheat again I ain't gonna call Cheaters no more, I'm gonna kill you.")

Cheaters further provides a service to its fans by offering a dating website for those who are tired of being cheated on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My favorite is when Cheaters visits a previous case from the archives...