Small Town Security
Small Town Security Credit: Gene Page

After I watched the second-Season premiere of AMC’s Small Town Security I had a weird conversation with my mom. “I love them,” she said about the show’s cast. “I want to work with them. I want to live with them.”

That’s an emphatic endorsement, especially from someone who tends to be unwilling to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy a reality show. (I, on the other hand, am real willing if I’m entertained enough.) It makes sense, though, because the show is fucking visceral: kind of stinky, claustrophobic, sometimes visually repellent, but in a way that makes you feel at home with a group of five strangers in Ringgold, Georgia. They’re certainly at home with us.

Until last week, the only clip I’d seen of the show involved two of the primary players, JJK Security matriarch Joan Koplan and her husband, Irwin, accidentally pissing their pants.

The bulk of the show takes place inside the security company’s headquarters, a small clapboard house that seems too full—filled with people, filled with stuff. Joan, a sixtysomething native New Yorker who belches and curses and has her own cable-access show (I just described my mother, by the way, up until the cable-access part), is perpetually glued to a sofa, and the action tends to revolve around her. Is she slothful? No. She has Parkinson’s disease. And what about Dennis, the security force’s lieutenant, who pays a bizarre amount of attention to married Joan, frequently kneeling down in front of her to rub her feet and legs? Well, Dennis—”D” for short—is transgender and living as a man for the first time. He and Joan are old friends and have a love for each other that appears to go a lot deeper than the superficial impropriety of some massages and hugs.

I think networks use the term “unscripted reality” too loosely. Maybe there’s no script, but there’s definitely direction, an outline, some guidance for what cast members need to accomplish over the course of a scene to keep the thread going. The ruse shouldn’t necessarily bother audiences. It means the cast is in on it; we’re not just shameless gawkers. We’re getting to know them in a controlled if unflinching way.

And now that I’ve gotten to know the Small Town Security cast, I can’t say I’d want to live with them. But it’s fun to visit once in a while.