We have all heard this story before: a crooked or incompetent contractor leaves a homeowner in mess. Let’s face it, there are contractors out there who give contractors a bad name. Adam Carolla’s new show, Catch a Contractor, which premiered on Spike TV last Sunday focuses on tracking down some of these offenders and holding them accountable for their work. They are given the opportunity to make things right or face legal consequences. It makes for entertaining television but it could be so much more.
Each half hour show follows a similar format. We meet the homeowners and get a brief overview of what the contractor did or did not do. Private investigator Alison Bedell tracks down the contractor and acts as a potential client to lure him to a “sting” house where he is confronted by Carolla, contractor Skip Bedell and the homeowners.
We are then treated to a montage of the actual repairs and construction with the shady contractor working under the supervision of taskmasters Adam and Skip. Finally, the homeowner returns for the reveal of the finished project.
Carolla worked in construction for more than a decade before earning his break in radio. Fans of his home improvement podcast, Ace on the House know that he has little patience for sloppy workmanship and lack of attention to detail. He will “tell it like it is, or as he sees it” without regard to political correctness. His flagship podcast, The Adam Carolla Show is in the Guiness Book of World Records for having the most downloads. He has a loyal fan base, even if some (or many) people will find his personality abrasive. On Catch a Contractor, we don’t see as much of that abrasiveness. Instead we catch a glimpse of his sense of humor and sarcasm which should appeal to a wider audience.
Skip Bedell: contractor
Skip Bedell also has an extensive background in construction, though his past is much less documented than Carolla’s. He is understandably angry that bad contractors making the whole industry look bad, to the point that he accuses bad contractors of taking the food off his table. To me this is a bit of an exaggeration. Carolla has often pointed out on his podcasts that good contractors will always find work. I will argue there is room for incompetent contractors in the market place because the good ones are so busy. On the show, we don’t see much evidence of Skip Bedell’s level of expertise, mainly because of the pace of the construction / repair montage. It would be nice if we see more of his work in future episodes.
Alison Bedell: Investigator
Alison Bedell, Skip’s wife, is the private investigator on the show. She is the one who actually tracks down the shady contractor. Posing as a homeowner looking to have work done, she lures him to the “sting” house. The investigation is reduced to Alison sitting in a car with a camera that has a rockin’ telephoto lens. It would be nice to see more of the investigation, though I suppose there is a danger in revealing trade secrets.
Skip and Alison are no strangers to reality television, having been featured in an episode of Marry Me in NYC. On that show, from 2011, Alison was identified as a probation officer. There is no indication when she made the transition from P.O. to P.I., but this feels suspiciously like a case of being cast into a role for TV. At any rate, Skip and Alison have an interesting back story. It would be nice to learn more about them.
[Update: During an episode of The Adam Carolla Show Podcast, Adam revealed that the private investigator originally hired for the show was unable to / chose not to participate. Alison happened to be in the vicinity supporting her husband and, once the producers learned of her background, they offered her position / role.]
“Justice porn” vs Education
Home improvement junkies may be disappointed that more time isn’t spent showing actual construction and repair work being done. But that isn’t what this show is about. If there is any question, just read the show’s title. It is all about the confrontation. The show aims more to entertain than to educate. And frankly, that feels like a missed opportunity. That is not to say that there aren’t a few educational take-aways for the viewer; there are. But they are not the primary focus. Someone on the Spike TV website referred to the show as “justice porn.” That is an apt description.
The bottom line: I watched the show with my wife and 12 year old daughter and we all enjoyed it. We set our DVR and we will be watching the remaining episodes. If you view Catch a Contractor on the merits of what it is trying to be (rather than what it could be) it is worth watching. 7/10
Catch a Contractor airs on Spike TV Sunday night at 10:00 Eastern, 9:00 Central. Check your local listings.
Update: April 24, 2014
Adam Carolla recently announced on his podcast that Spike has renewed Catch a Contractor for a second season of ten, one hour episodes.
Update: Season 2
With the longer format in Season 2, additional attention is paid to the confrontation and it seems even less time is spent on the remediation cementing this show as “justice porn.” It’s entertaining, but don’t expect to learn anything. Season 3 films in March 2015.
Update: Season 3 (2015)
The third season of CAC focuses some attention on the production crew and the behind-the-scenes setups of the stings. It’s interesting, but it takes even more attention away from the actual rehabilitation. Someone nerdier than me could probably break the episodes down more accurately, but I would roughly estimate that the show is 10% backstory, 85% investigation and confrontation and 5% rehabilitation and reveal. Educational value is negligible.
Skip will berate the bad contractors for giving good contractors a bad reputation. But the show does nothing to show any contractors in a good light. The final reveal is pretty, but we don’t see any of the workmanship that goes into it.
But instead of lamenting what the show could be, just watch it for what it is. It may not “move the needle,” to use one of Carolla’s favorite expressions, but it is an hour of guilty pleasure.
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