Small Town Security: Claustrophobic, visually repellent, and really good | Bleader

Small Town Security: Claustrophobic, visually repellent, and really good


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Irwin and Joan Koplan (and their leg-humping dog Lambchop)
  • AMC
  • Irwin and Joan Koplan (and their leg-humping dog Lambchop)
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."

First of all, I had no idea how much she hates living with my dad. Second, that's an emphatic endorsement from someone who tends to be unwilling to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy a reality show. I'm extremely willing if I'm entertained enough. I watch this phony-baloney bullshit. We still friends? Oh, gooood.

But it makes sense that a person could become attached to the cast of Small Town Security, 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 who operate a private security company in Ringgold, Georgia. They sure feel at home with us.

Until last week, the only clip I'd seen of it involved its "star," JJK Security matriarch Joan Koplan laughing until she pissed her pants.

The bulk of the show takes place inside the security company's headquarters, a small clapboard house that's too full—full of people, full of stuff. Joan's husband, Irwin, appears to be a hoarder. 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.

Networks use the term "unscripted reality" really loosely. Maybe there's no script, but—c'maaan—there's some direction, an outline, guidance for what cast members need to accomplish over the course of a scene to keep the narrative moving. The narrative they're working on this season: in the wake of the first season, JKK's business has suffered, because it turns out people don't want their car dealerships being watched over by sentinels with bladder-control problems and cameras following them everywhere. It's the downside of sudden fame, the upside being that they're for sure being compensated by the network.

The "unscripted reality" 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 these oddly interesting people 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 necessarily want to live with them. But it's fun to visit once in a while.

Gwynedd Stuart writes about TV on Wednesdays.

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