If you’ve been a regular reader of “Week in Sloth” (below), you’ve probably run across a mention of the Wheel of Blue Collar Jobs That Don’t Have Reality Shows Yet. Basically, network programmers spin it every couple of weeks in order to find new series. That’s how they ended up giving reality shows to motorcycle builders, repo men, exterminators, tree trimmers, crab fishermen, swordfish fishermen, oil riggers, truck drivers, auctioneers, pawn brokers, snow-plow drivers and guys who buy abandoned storage lockers. The latest non-college-degree career field to land its own reality show? Tow-truck drivers.
Lizard Lick Towing and Recovery in rural Lizard Lick, N.C., is owned by evangelist and Lizard Lick Mayor Pro Tem Ronnie Shirley and his wife Amy (who is also a power lifter and works as a mortician). On paper, it’s not hard to see what attracted producers to these colorful characters. In practice, however, they’re the now-stereotypical model for blue-collar docu-reality show stars: fat and/or bald and/or heavily tattooed. Throw in Ronnie’s good ol’ boy best friend and co-worker Bobby and you’ve got a triumvirate of fussin’ and fightin’ and corn-pone homily spoutin’.
The premiere episode sets the show’s tone: namely, lots of screaming and some hilariously overwritten “reality.” In the first show alone, we’ve got a knock-down-drag-out brawl, a full-on assault by a biker gang straight out of Central Casting, a breakup between best friends, a championship softball game and a surprise pregnancy. Just a typical workday at Lizard Lick Towing. ... Yeah, right.
I think (I hope) everyone out there in TV Land is aware of the fact that reality shows are nothing of the sort these days. Even if on-camera talent weren’t contractually obligated to throw things, get drunk and fight at least once an episode (which they are), most people know how they’re supposed to behave on television. No one on “Maury Povich” or “The Jerry Springer Show” needs to be coached. You step out on stage and you throw a punch at your baby mama / cheating hubby / gay roommate. That’s the formula. “Lizard Lick Towing” takes it a step further, though, crafting patently unbelievable “stories.”
For example, in the first episode, Ronnie and Bobby are called upon to help repossess a car from a bad-ass tattoo artist. The tattoo artist and his pals beat Bobby unconscious. On camera. Later on, a whole posse of tattooed bikers shows up at the towing company, trashing cars and buildings with baseball bats and tire irons. On camera. Ridiculously enough, Ron refuses to press charges. Oh, and the murderous bikers apparently all sign releases to allow their images to be used in the show. Later on, Ron and the tattoo artist shake hands and become good friends. The only thing missing is a pat on the back from Uncle Jesse and a wrap-up of what we leaned this week from narrator Waylon Jennings.