June 23, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Reality TV Sells

Every now and then, I hear or read about the exploits of my former film school classmates in the news media. One recently wrote a screenplay for an upcoming Julia Roberts film, another has won an Emmy award several years in a row for her work on the TV series "ER." And only a few months ago, yet another received an Academy Award nomination for Best Live Action Short Film. But none have gained the international notoriety that former classmate Jeff Sells has earned in recent days.

Who is Jeff Sells, you might ask? He's only a bit player in an ongoing drama, but the story caused me to utter more than a few sympathetic chuckles. Last week, bounty hunters captured convicted rapist (and heir to the Max Factor fortune) Andrew Luster in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The incident made headlines around the world as the FBI extradited Luster back to the U.S. the day after his capture. But it was the capture itself that really piqued my interest.

After a tip-off from another film school buddy, I dug into the week's news. Sure enough, buried in the many wire reports about the capture, I came across the name of Jeff Sells. It appears that he now works as a reality TV producer, and had sniffed out a story upon hearing that bounty hunter Duane Lee Chapman was on Luster's trail down in Mexico. Camera in hand, he was with Chapman and his team when the capture went down. He then joined them all in prison two hours later, when Mexican authorities arrested them on charges of deprivation of liberty and a variety of other allegations.

They're out on bail now, awaiting trial in Mexico, while Luster has started serving his 124-year jail sentence back in the U.S. There's more than a touch of irony there, and certainly a compelling story to add to the growing lexicon of reality TV. As Sells himself said, "I work in reality TV, and this is about as 'reality' as you can get, because I'm sittin' in a prison."

Sells did what any ambitious newshound or producer would have done upon catching wind of a hot story. Too bad he's facing criminal charges for helping to capture a convicted rapist. But maybe he'll be able to make a name for himself—or at least earn a few extra bucks—by telling his story. With any luck, he'll be able to say that reality TV "sells."

6/26 Update: Sells was cleared of all charges today and freed to return to the U.S. The bounty hunter was not so lucky....


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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June Columns:

6/30: Halfway There
6/27: 28 Days Later
6/26: I Am a Racist
6/24: America the Obese
6/23: Reality TV Sells
6/20: June Gloom
6/18: Hatch's Hollywood Hacking
6/16: Qualcomm Stadium
6/15: Happy Father's Day
6/14: Flag Day
6/13: Friday the 13th
6/12: Extreme
6/9: Spammed
6/8: Lack of PLANning
6/7: When Grass Attacks
6/4: Culture Shock
6/1: The Baja 500
Previous months in The Archive

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