Fictional Reality

By Michael Murray | TV | February 12, 2010 | Comments ()

By Michael Murray | TV | February 12, 2010 |

In the American version, which retains its Latin flair, a fictional repossession team from the San Fernando Valley portray scripted re-enactments of repossessions. Essentially, it's a soap opera that contains elements of pro wrestling sold as a reality TV.

The producers do everything that they can to convince the viewer that they're watching a typical documentary/reality venture. Cameramen and boom microphones are intentionally placed in the frame, suggesting that what we're watching is so chaotic and unpredictable that the cameramen must run for their lives, too. While this riot of senseless activity is taking place, they frequently cut to interviews with the members of the Repo team, (my favorite is the massive and heaving Luis, who is always interviewed with a Blue Tooth in his ear, lest he miss an important Repo call) who describes the insider analysis on the anarchy we've been watching.

The show rockets along, zipping by in 30 disorienting minutes so that watching you really don't know what the hell is going on. One minute a fight is taking place in the parking lot of a fortuneteller, and the next moment the team is repossessing Go-Karts, and everywhere there is screaming and swearing and bouncing cameras. It doesn't make any sense at all, and it hardly matters. Drawn by the native charisma of violence and swearing, you watch, and once you figure out that it's all a sham, the show's over, and really, who cares if it's real or not?

The reality shows that are foisted on us are all fabrications, programs cluttered with bad actors with big ambitions, all enacting a scripted narrative that's supposed to resemble some sort of classy soap opera. "Operation Repo" is simultaneously smart and stupid. Honest in a way that most reality TV is not, they seized that template and ratcheted up the content, amplifying the whole experience into a surreal and kitschy trip that's harmless and fun. It's aggressively idiotic, of course, a ridiculous exaggeration, but that is what we're looking for when we tune in to the reality genre anyway, and "Operation Repo" has the significant advantage of knowing exactly what it is, even if their audience doesn't.

Michael Murray is a freelance writer. For the last three and a half years he's written a weekly column for the Ottawa Citizen about watching television. He presently lives in Toronto. You can find more of his musings on his blog, or check out his Facebook page.

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