Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Cheaters": Keepin' it Trashy, One Failed Relationship at a Time

If you haven’t seen “Cheaters”, then you are a better person than I am.

In case you don't watch garbage TV at 2am like I do, here is the basic premise of “Cheaters”: it’s a hidden camera show that uses private investigators to catch people cheating on their significant other. In the introduction the show claims that, “This program is both dedicated to the faithful and presented to the false-hearted to encourage their renewal of temperance and virtue.” The language in that description alone is a preview to the extravagance of this show in trying to make each episode as dramatic as possible. The main appeal is humor at just how over the top and trashy it all is.

In every episode, it’s clear that the producers are trying to make it as scientific and therefore legitimate as possible. Zoom and shaky camera techniques make you feel a bit dizzy. In general, all the high tech banners and whatnot are distracting and reminiscent of a bad “Mission Impossible” type spy movie. The language of the voice-overs only adds to the effect. Terms like “suspect,” “unknown female, are employed as frequently as possible even though the actual names of the people being followed are always known. They also throw in a good number of “agents,” “headquarters,” “field operatives,” “base,” and “stakeout” type terms for good measure in case you haven’t caught on that this is serious spy business.

To my disappointment, all this led up to was a melodramatic plot. First we were introduced to Misty, who I’m pretty sure was drugged during her interview. She tells us the heartbreaking story of her husband’s distance since she was injured in a car accident. Then the investigators get to work and for most of the episode we watch less-than-thrilling scenes of the husband and his lover trying on sunglasses at the mall, eating lunch and sightseeing. Don’t worry though; the commentary doesn’t fail to add drama. The husband, an architect, is “drafting plans that don’t include his wife.” A meal is a “lunchtime tryst.” No one drives, they “barrel down the highway.” Instead of swimming in the ocean, the couple is “splashing in the rising tide” and “passionately making out while the waves crash around them.”

“The Confrontation” is by far my favorite part, but once again, doesn’t quite live up to expectations. The host gives some false sympathy (a completely monotone “it’s going to be all right”) before revealing the evidence to Misty, who breaks down while the camera zooms in. In order to get as dramatic a confrontation as possible, Misty is briskly whisked away mid-tear to meet her husband and his lover face to face. This is where it gets good. The shaky camera is going crazy. Misty is unleashed. We get some small scale violence (a deflected slap) and even a fight between the two women in which the lover yells at the camera “They don’t love each other,” and to Misty, “You might understand him if you weren’t pilled out all the time.” The husband concurs that he doesn’t love Misty and that, “The Misty I loved died when you started taking those pills.” I guess my suspicion was accurate. That’s irrelevant to the host, who tries to guilt the cheater and make his lover insecure about his fidelity, up until the point when Misty screams at her husband, “Well maybe when you get home I’ll be in a casket.” The host seems a little nervous at this point (has this happened before?) and lets the couple drive away. It might sound good, but really it was just three people arguing and some uncomfortable camera angles for about a minute.

There’s little conclusion because it’s pretty obvious Misty and her husband aren’t going to last, so they follow up with a previous episode instead. Shanequa tells us about how Cheaters “changed her life” and she kicked out her cheating boyfriend. It’s a “you go girl!” kind of feel good moment so you aren’t left feeling sad about poor druggy Misty.

All in all, I actually feel like a need a shower after watching the “Misty Love” episode. It scares me to try and think why anyone would want to see this or be on it—you do get a free investigation, but only if your case is aired. I really have no idea what the takeaway message is supposed to be, so I’ll leave you with a few extra pieces of gold in case you aren’t dying to see “Cheaters” and decide for yourself yet…

1. The logo of the show is a broken heart inside a magnifying glass.
2. The host, Joey Greco, is incredibly creepy. That intense stare and eyebrow movement has been practiced in the mirror, without a doubt. I could definitely imagine him hiding in the bushes outside of my house, and enjoying it.
3. They have a blog for people to meet.
4. The phrase, “suspect demonstrates his proficiency in lying and flying as he does some serious loop-de-loops around the truth.”
5. The show’s address is on Lovers Lane.

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