Reality Bites

Reality Bites: Lizard Lick Towing

I know reality shows are chock full of staged encounters and -- at the least -- script outlines designed to push the "characters" in certain directions. It's been the case ever since the first season of Survivor and continues to this day with the likes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Even shows that are patent BS like Ghost Adventures or Criss Angel: Mindfreak incorporate some element of veracity, even if it's nothing more than the earnestness of some of the participants. Which is why it's almost refreshing to come across a show that is 100% fabrication, one in which none of the characters behave in a believable manner and none of the situations are remotely credible. That show is Lizard Lick Towing.

Nothing about the adventures of Ron Shirley (who looks like Bernie Wrightson drew him for the movie Heavy Metal), his wife Amy and their faithful henchman Bobby Brantley rings true. Oh, I've no doubt the Wendell, North Carolina, company actually exists, or that Ron and Bobby tow cars in their gas-station sunglasses, but that's pretty much it. Bobby's "troubled relationship" with Micky, who looks like how Ellie Mae would've turned out if the Clampetts had moved to Las Vegas, is as well-thought-out and believable as an episode of The Ropers.

One of the episode's big "repos" comes when Ron and Bobby have to go after a moonshiner's truck. I was happy for this little tidbit, as it finally established this show didn't take place in the future. After listening to everyone speaking that guttural version of English from the movie Testament, I was sure this was a tachyon broadcast from a post-nuclear landscape.

Sorry, post-"nuc-ular."

Anyway, the boys end up driving out into the boonies, where, horror of horrors, there's no cell phone coverage. It's like that Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, right down to when the moonshiners catch Ron and Bobby clumsily wandering around the property, futilely trying to page each other.

This leads to bullshit scenario #2: Somehow, despite being surrounded by what one would assume to be unpleasant criminals loath to give up their sole form of transporting 'shine to Winston-Salem or wherever, Ron and Bobby not only manage to escape relatively unscathed but also -- and this is important -- with the truck. Either these particular moonshiners learned everything about their trade from "Li'l Abner," or the whole thing was staged in advance and (poorly) acted out.

I like how TruTV started as Court TV, which allegedly provided a sober look at the world of criminal justice. Then the O.J. Simpson trial happened and, well, enter Lizard Lick Towing.

The moonshiners, without a vehicle, remember, show up demanding their booze. That's right, the 'shine was in the truck the whole time. Under what I can only assume is some sort of Appalachian version of the Geneva Conventions, Ron and Bobby return their corn squeezin's. Naturally, they break a few jars. Naturally, the moonshiners drive off without blowing their heads off.

My sole experience with the world of car repossession comes from the movie Repo Man, which certainly made the act look a lot harder than it apparently is. Case in point: Ron and Bobby's next gig, which is to sneak into the local rodeo and take a trailer. Bullshit scenario #3 isn't so much that the trailer was left unattended, but that the bull was. Of course, the bull's owners show up ready to duke it out, yet Ron and Bobby still come out on top. What's even better, and just like with the moonshiners, the bull's still in the trailer when they take off.

While we're waiting for the inevitable Showdown at the Faux Oakley Corral, Micky shows up. Because Amy needs a storyline every week, too, you know. The conflict arises when Micky snoops in Amy's e-mail. Events fall woefully short of full-on fisticuffs.

It seems redundant to call out a reality show for insulting our intelligence, but TruTV and the producers of LLT aren't even trying. The Shirleys seem like decent enough folks, but if making their lives interesting enough for TV involves the kind of obvious shenanigans on display here, maybe a reality show isn't warranted in the first place.

Blasphemy, I know.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar