I’ve just watched my first, and hopefully last, full episode of Cheaters on Fox TV. I’d seen bits of the show before, ages ago, but never actually sat through a whole episode. Wow. I had my hand over my mouth through most of it, I was so shocked at how bad and yet how compelling it was. If there really are aliens out there tuning in to our television broadcasts to find out more about our species, Cheaters is one of those shows I pray they don’t see or else we’re doomed to be shunned by the rest of the cosmos.
It’s not just the tackiness of the basic premise of the show that bothered me (confront cheaters with their partners and a camera crew), but the whole tone of the thing. The host is hilarious, full of mock concern for the cheatee and phoney righteous anger at the cheater. He looks like a young Jerry Lewis in a shiny black leather outfit and funky black-rimmed glasses. Particularly endearing was the way he delivered his pieces to camera: he would stand at a 45-degree angle to the lens, but with his face pointing directly at the TV audience as he delivered the closing remarks for one segment, then he would turn 90-degrees to face the other way to introduce the next segment, all the while keeping his face locked to the camera – he even stayed face on when he stiffly walked off at the end of his speeches. He did this every time, very funny.
What’s really amazing is that so few of the people in the show have their faces pixellated out, which means that everyone else gave their permission to have their faces broadcast, even the cheaters. I hope they got a big fat cheque for agreeing to be nationally exposed as a cheater, but judging by the apparent IQs of the ones I saw tonight, they probably signed a release form without even reading it. Judging by the comments on this forum, the show is aimed at the right target audiences – rednecks (of all colours) and those that like to laugh at rednecks. Later comments on that forum state that in another episode the host gets stabbed in the stomach, which given the way he goads his victims is not very surprising, though I’m surprised they aired it. Then again, it seems the host I saw is a recent replacement, and much of the audience want the previous host back. Cheaters really is is trash TV at it’s trashiest. As one reviewer puts it:
[shows like Cheaters’] casts are made up of the slices of America least wanted by network television: the fat, the poor, the uneducated, the inarticulate, the strung-out–the people you don’t want sitting on the bus next to you. But watching their lives fall apart, in often devastating ways, is infinitely more riveting than watching some human resources director get her feelings hurt over a can of beans on a show like “Survivor.”