For several years, the repossession industry was up in arms about the proliferation of “Repo Reality” TV shows and the negative image of the industry they portrayed as a bunch of lawn wrestling jug heads who dropped their gloves for a fight on the drop of a dime. There was a perception and theory that these melodramas were contributory to what seemed like spikes in repossession related acts of violence including shootings and deaths. Seemingly unnoticed and with no fanfare, they all went away almost as quick as they proliferated.
The first and longest running of these “C” grade productions they hit us with, was the over the top antics of “Operation Repo”, which delivered heavily staged and alleged reenactments of claimed real incidents. This was the most popular of the genre and ran first in a Spanish language format from 2006 on Telemundo until going mainstream on “TruTV” in 2008 with the English language hit version that concluded its final season in February 2014!
This show was televised in eight different countries around the world and became the blueprint for it’s successors. It’s creator and star was Luis ‘Lou’ Pizarro, left the show after a televised 2011 heart attack.
On April 26, 2011 “Repo Games” aired which brought the hosts, claimed “Repo Men” Josh Lewis and Tom De Tone showed up at borrowers homes, lifted their car and challenged the owners with a chance to win it back by answering five general-knowledge trivia questions. If the owner could answer three questions correctly, the vehicle was dropped from the tow truck and the borrower got it back, with all delinquent payments and any outstanding loan balance paid off by the show.
This show reached its pinnacle early in season one when an angry neighbor near one of the on location productions opened fire on the crew in Las Vegas in April 2011. It just wasn’t as funny anymore and it ran its course in August 2012.
Of course, who could forget good old Ron Shirley and “Lizard Lick Towing.” This spin off of “All Worked Up” featured the perfect blend of repo lawn wrestling and good old fashion white trash personified and offered a North Carolina version of “Operation Repo”. Let’s face it, Ron Shirley was far more entertaining than any of the actors on “Operation Repo.” Fortunately, this car crash only ran from 2011 to 2013 before being cancelled.
Shirley actually started his company with one truck in 1998 and in ten years built up a fleet of 20 trucks with 15 staff members. Ron was best known for his quaint sayings otherwise known as “Ronism’s” like “She’s as subtle as an unflushed toilet.” And “Slower than a herd of turtles arching through peanut butter.”
Here’s the shocker. Rumor has it, that they are coming back for season 8 in 2017!
And of course, there were the late comers to the party, New Jersey based “Bear Swamp Recovery” which was an actual working repossession agency that allegedly sold itself to the network and essentially lost its ability to operate. While I have little pity, rumor has it they went out of business shortly after the show ran its short 13 episode course.
While most people, myself included, laid much blame for the uptick of violence in the field on these characterizations played out on the boob tube, they’re gone and have been gone for some time now and hardly anyone noticed. So, now that they’re gone have field operations become any safer?