From the producer of Jersey Shore comes another twisted reality show called Repo Games. The premise: Two repo men, rough-around-the-edges hosts Josh Lewis and Tom DeTone, show up at someone’s house to take their wheels — but first! — the guys give the debtors a chance to become contestants in a trivia game. If these about-to-be-car-less people can answer three out of five easy trivia questions correctly (e.g., How many eyes does a Cyclops have?), their car will be paid off in full. Otherwise, it’s hello, public humiliation, and hello, public transportation. (Or a fate even worse, like an inability to get to work, for instance — but try not to think about that.) Vulture spoke with producer SallyAnn Salsano about whether her new show, which premieres tonight on Spike at 8 p.m., is ethical, and how she thinks the Jersey Shore cast will fare in Italy.
Where did this show idea come from? Did somebody you know get his car repossessed and then you were like, “Here’s an idea!”
I was playing into what’s going on in the economy right now. Sometimes people need a break. These people have already lost something and now we’re giving them a chance to win something back; it’s kind of like a Hail Mary. The situation is not going to change — it can only get better, it can’t get worse.
Well, they can wind up looking stupid on top of having their car repossessed, no?
I mean, sure, if you want to be a naysayer. Or you can say they’re on a game show and not everybody wins a game show. The questions are completely at random and it is the type of thing where it’s all general knowledge. If you know it, you know it; if you don’t, you don’t. It’s like “Jaywalking.”
But with “Jaywalking,” you’re not necessarily catching people in a moment of great stress. Are you worried that some viewers are going to think you’re exploiting people?
I mean, you can say the same thing about Extreme Makeover or any show where you find somebody who’s in a weird position and you’re fixing them or helping them in some way. For some people, they’re excited to just get the attention. Also, people can say no. A lot of people have windows in their houses and if they look outside and don’t want to come and play, they don’t even open the door. One person is having us in and giving us Kool-Aid, and the next person is like, chasing me with a baseball bat. What I like about the show is that it’s real people in real situations, not apologizing for who they are. It’s like, everyone has a different reason why they’re in the situation and at the end of the day, sometimes it’s just that it happened, you know? Like why am I knocking on this person’s door and not that person’s? I don’t know! It’s just the way it works out.
The show wouldn’t work, though, if every person whose door you knocked on was super smart and super put together.
No show would work if everyone were super smart. Or super happy. It’s a mix, which is what gives you a good show and a sampling of Any City, USA.
How do you hook up with the contestants? Is it through the repo guys’ companies?
Yeah, that’s all — I don’t want to get into all the game play and stuff. That’s just semantics. That’s, like, boring. Honestly, I can’t even sit through those meetings; I want to kill myself.
Let’s talk Jersey Shore: The cast leaves for Italy soon. Is everyone pumped?
We’re so excited, it’s crazy.
How do you think the people of Italy are going to react to the cast being there? [Editor’s note: Since Vulture spoke with Salsano, the mayor of Florence issue some behavioral guidelines for the cast.]
I think it depends on the day of the week. You never know what’s going to happen on that show; you just can’t plan it. You go out and sometimes they love us and sometimes they hate us — but that goes for any twentysomethings that are out.
How has the cast changed since they’ve gotten more rich and famous — do you need to keep them in line more often?
We all can call each other out. Like, it’s only been a year and a half. I’m always like, “Come on. A year and a half ago, I found you in a club and I had to give you a cigarette and, like, buy you a Gatorade because you had no money.” I am so excited for them and I hope they’re all being smart with their money, but it also comes down to like, Really? I know who you are.
And you’re also from Jersey, right? Or is it Long Island?
I’m a Long Island girl, but I spent my summers at the Shore. Everyone says, “How did you think of the show?” I didn’t think of it; it’s like, what I did. It wasn’t some ingenious thing where I was thinking of a guido; it’s just normal to me. Everyone’s like, “They are so outrageous.” I’m like, “Really?” It seems like everything I did, just now it’s fifteen years later.