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Cheaters: Best of Season One
Tragically, "Cheaters" may be the best kept secret in exploitation television. Each week, the syndicated "real reality" program plants viewers into the lives of couples grappling with the slippery slope that IS fidelity in these romantically perilous times. Your average marrieds. Lesbian lovers and their male brothers. Confused beaus who'd ask their sweeties to marry them if only they could FIND them. For each, their unlikely hero is Tommy Grand (Tommy Habeeb) the hour's host, who is either the NICEST fella on the planet, or a fiendish huckster the likes of which the entertainment world has rarely witnessed. Garbed in black, with a stubbled mug, meek Mr. Grand, who has the soothing voice of Mister Rogers, manages a stable of private eyes -- OK, um, a guy named Gomez, but dang it, he's good -- who procure grainy surveillance footage of client's significants groping cheatees at the mall, church parking lots, or the check out line at Sack 'N' Save.
Grand then presents these poor souls with this "information," usually outside a Chili's restaurant and with a horde of cameramen and security toughs buzzing about. Each time, Tommy quietly apologizes, "I really hate to show you this," while images of dirty deeds flash across his three-inch camcorder screen. And often times, Grand will apologize AGAIN, which usually means he's about to make his client watch something even WORSE. He might also choose to punctuate the revelation with a charmingly cornball exclamation like, "Holy mackerel!" All the while, the camera is ever locked in for every gasp, or tear exuded by the unfortunate rube who's just discovered they're being cheated on. Yet, the fun doesn't end there. Then the show's biggest (and most ingenious) conceit manifests, as Mr. Grand, dripping with dubious compassion, asks rhetorically, in the cool demeanor of a high-school guidance counselor, "Would you like to confront them?" Bingo! Fireworks City!
This weekly sleaze fest has inexplicably languished in unwarranted obscurity among the crush of programming spawned by the "reality" craze. About a fourth of the show's reported markets air it well after midnight, including right here in Dallas, where the "Cheaters" home office is located on none other than, get this, Lover's Lane. But they certainly don't have an exposure problem on DVD thanks to the uncensored release of Cheaters: Best of Season One (2000, 120 minutes), which highlights four fine segments complete with curse words and copious copulation footage -- about 20 minutes worth, actually.
Willie Johnson and Donna Rousseau: He's a gentleman truck driver who's six months out of a 35-year marriage that went south. On the road, Willie encountered a much younger, down-on-her-luck Donna, whom he took a fancy to and decided he'd help out. The two share a motel room, however he suspects she's also sharing the room with others while he spends many long hours on the highway. "Cheaters" proves his fears to be correct, and then some, as their cameras discover she's actually got something of a revolving door policy going on in Room 146. Our snarky narrator laments, "Willie's shocked to learn the woman whose life he's trying to turn around has, in fact, turned on him! Obviously, his love alone just isn't enough to fill the empty hours that pass in the motel room." Mr. Grand, Willie and a camera, light and sound gang burst in on Donna and find her entertaining an unidentified suitor who scurries for the door. After Donna attempts to deny any wrongdoing, Grand doesn't mask his disgust when he asks, "I see your bed's turned down. What were you about to do with this fella tonight? What if we came in 15 minutes later!?" It's easily the more heart wrenching of the four confrontations. In the uncensored footage (6:35 A), watch as limber Ms. Rousseau is captured via hidden camera diddling an enthusiastic beau while the Channel 8 newscast plays in the background (6 mins).
Allan Coursey and Cindy "Devon" O'Canas: Another older fella lured in by the attentions of a younger gal. She's a wanna be rock singer. He ought to know better. Coursey comes to "Cheaters" to find out if she's really at band practice when she says she is. Investigators find her walking hand-in-hand with bandmate Lon Wade whose mane looks as though a blond poodle is mounting his skull. Our narrator subtly explains, "That evening it becomes clear to 'Cheaters' that O'Canas and Wade are making more than music together." Grand and Coursey confront the lovebirds on the streets of Deep Ellum, a popular stretch of Dallas nightlife, where Devon is initially shocked, while a drunken Wade can't quite grasp what's happening. He squeals at Coursey to explain how he knows Devon's name. He paces in crazified circles and bangs his head into a storefront window in comic frustration. Then the whole scene goes completely over the top with Devon cursing Coursey, "How could you [email protected]#&ing do this [email protected]#%!!? You know we got gigs down here!!! You know we got gigs in a [email protected]$%ing few weeks, man!!!" She stomps down the sidewalk in pursuit of Wade who's fled the lights and cameras. Her meaty hindquarters threaten to burst the seams of her micro-miniskirt, especially when she hurls herself onto the hood of Lon's car. There's not much to see in the uncensored footage (39:22 A), as it's just too dark to make out anything, but given the participants, that's a good thing. Its intro is full of Tommy-isms, though, "Lascivious conduct and betrayal diabolized a human relationship. ... Evaluate first hand the inverse relationship between the seduction of one and the languor of the other" (7 mins).
Derick Ringley and Taylor: Buxom coed Taylor has a live-in boyfriend with a bum leg who also just happens to be out of a job. While she's splitting time between classes and work, he's splitting playtime between two women as our narrator reveals, "Ringley assures Taylor he pounds the pavement looking for a job, but 'Cheaters' cameras catch him pounding the flesh of a female companion." Judging by the ample bosom of his gal on the side, it seems clear Derick's a breast man, if not a company man. Mr. Grand gives Taylor the bad news while trying to avoid looking down her cavernous cleavage. They confront Ringley who's sharply dressed, hopping along on crutches, through a busy festival setting with his cheatee at his side. Taylor swoops in, shrieking at Ringley and calling his bimbette a "whore," who responds by jerking down Taylor's precariously stringy top. Ooooo! CATFIGHT!!! Gap-jawed revelers stop in their tracks and watch as the two scream compound curses at each other before eventually turning their attentions to Derick. He flings his crutches around almost striking a cameraman, who grabs it to avoid being hit. Ringley then barks, "You're gonna take my crutch from me?! What a puss!!!" In the uncensored footage (3:14 B), a hidden camera in Taylor's apartment spies as Ringley cavorts on the couch with his afternoon delight and her melon-heavy charms (9 mins).
Norma Norman and Harold Norman: Married for 30 years, Norma comes to "Cheaters" about her absentee husband Harold -- a professional gambler. He claims to be dividing his time between casinos in Las Vegas and Louisiana, but Grand's investigators discover he's actually very nearby and leading a double life with a Slurpee-lovin' erotic dancer from the Lipstick Gentlemen's Club. Norma's a kindly woman, a bit doddering, with only a pair of pet birds to keep her company, yet she's determined to nail Harold's cheatin' butt to the wall. She and Grand confront her husband and dancer Amy "Raven Heat" Kovalchick outside a 7-Eleven. Again, the women turn on the cheater. Kovalchick howls when she learns Harold has been paying Norma's bills "with MY [email protected]#damn strippin' money?!" In the end, he's left to bum a ride when both Norma and Raven Heat flutter away. Harold threatens to sue everyone in sight, yet concedes guilt when he says, "Well, hell, you gotta have some sometimes to keep you occupied when you're not getting along with your old lady." In the uncensored footage (27:12 A), watch as investigator's hidden camera documents a seemingly endless lapdance (7 mins).
Notables: Six breasts. Catfighting. Gratuitous hot babe with braces. Seedy motel room. Extremely failed rock musicians. Top popping. Diddling. Multiple screaming fits. Peeping. Sunbathing.
Time codes: Willie wows Tommy with a bold claim about his sexual prowess (2:34 A). Split-second lewd message by a video prankster (14:07 A). Grand sums up a sorry situation with two simple words, "Damn, Willie" (29:50 A). Security dude briefly reaches for his gun to stop Lon from speeding away in a car with Devon sprawled on its hood (57:59 A). Freeze-frame pervert's delight (15:30 B). Hit slow mo and watch as Mr. Grand is confronted by Norma's untethered breasts (22:22 B). A rare, but golden feature of the weekly series -- the "Pre-Bust Meeting" (34:45 B).
Audio/Video: Marked improvement from past broadcast and video tape incarnations. Extremely crisp stereo track and sharp fullframe video during pre-taped segments that also carries fairly well into the live confrontations. By its very nature, though, the black-and-white hidden camera footage is dicey.
Extras: Cackle with delight at the original "Cheaters" test footage featuring "Tommy Gunn" ambling down a wet urban street with an unlit cigarette dangling from his lower lip as he tells viewers that his favorite whiskey is Jack and he loves helping ladies in distress. It's a riot. There's a video followup with Mrs. Norman in which she praises "Cheaters" for helping her face the truth about her philandering hubby. Unfortunately, followups with Devon and Donna were broadcast, but not included on this disc. There's a rather anemic photo gallery with a handful of images that are too small to do much good. Jam to the "Cheaters" theme song "Broken Hearted" as written by series creator Bobby Goldstein and sung by Bill Mason. Peruse ways to catch a cheater, including looking for "telltale stains" on clothing. Yikes! Static menus with audio.
Final thought: There's NEVER been a clunker episode of this ingeniously sleazy series and this four-entry compilation showcases many of its lowest (or most inspired) moments. CineSchlockers truly have a new idol and his name is Tommy Grand! Highly Recommended.
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.