Cheaters: An Appreciation

Why something so wrong feels so right

"Well, of course, Cheaters is the end of civilization," my colleague—okay, Steve Lowery—was mewling like the pussy boy he is. And, of course, I'd always agreed—until I actually saw an episode.

What was this shiny bubble of self-righteousness and judgment? Who was this charming host, comforting the men and women who'd just seen night-vision video of their loved ones making it with hood-rat hos—and then, in a low voice after putting them in the surveillance van post-fight, mumbling: "I'll get your shoes"? Who was responsible for the fabulous writing, hiding its erudition and wit beneath a mass-market-accessible patois of dude? Intones the voiceover: "Jason is still pissed 'cause he got pepper-sprayed in the face." And why was Time/Life advertising a collection of songs by the beloved children's folk singer Raffi between its segments of fabulous trash?

It's the world of Cheaters—created by one Bobby Goldstein, who produces it, and writes it, and even performs the keyboard/synth theme—like the mulleted creatives who want to play their new theme music for the producers in Broadcast News . . . big finish!

My second episode in, I'd already hit paydirt: lesbians! In that heartbreaking episode, Britney, who must be all of 24 years old, works to pay the rent and car payments so her beloved, Amanda, can stay home and "keep house" and "cook dinner" and "fuck some big luggy oaf," which breaks our Britney's heart, and she cries naked tears for the camera.

Sympathetic (and nonjudgmental) voiceover: "The poor thing thinks she'll never find the girl of her dreams."

Unsympathetic (and very judgmental) voiceover, while showing us video of Amanda in bed with said oaf: "It would be just a sleazy affair, but everything's classier with a disco ball."

Is Britney being exploited? Gee, do you think?

But here is what's right. Oh, not the physical confrontation; those are boring, and the security staff does a reasonably good job of keeping the betrayed off their tormentors, but this: Do you think Britney, bein' all poor and trashy and young, has the money to go hire a private detective? Of course she doesn't. And she has decided the lack of dignity and privacy is worth knowledge—of knowing if her love is worth anything at all. She has chosen of her own free will to give us her pain in exchange for Eden's forbidden fruit. And our host, Joey Greco, while using her, at least is making her feel a whole lot better.

Greco is a marvel: quick-witted and a master triangulator, a shiny beacon of contempt for wrongdoers and Oprah-levels of beneficence for the done-wrong, he first tells the cuckolded how sorry he is to have show them this footage. He hates this part, he says, as he takes them in his arms in a really non-smarmy way. Then, when it is time for the overwhelmed (and probably not that articulate anyway) victims to confront their wayward lovers, he is there to instigate shit and keep the cheaters on the defensive. He is on their side! "It was just a drunk night," one says when confronted with video of him with another woman—all while yet another woman is walking by his side. "Is tonight 'Drunk Night' too?" Greco sneers. "Do you always carry your beer with you out of the bar?" When the fights have been fought, Greco lovingly folds the cheatees into the van and gives them a caring pep talk about how now they can live their lives without such destructive forces sabotaging their love and sapping their will. Joey Greco is a smiter of the wicked and a healer of hearts.

And best of everything? The show pays the cheaters and their accomplices money to use their likenesses, and then calls them whores for taking the cash.


G4 runs a Cheaters marathon on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. Check your cable listings.

 
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