Reality Bites: Border Wars

Categories: Reality Bites

Lousy Canadians.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

America's love of cop shows dates back to the Eisenhower Adminstration. Since the boob tube took up residence in our homes, we've been enamored with the boys in blue and the way they put their lives on the line to protect and serve.

Simple admiration without oversight was sufficient for audiences all the way into the 1980s, when realities of economics and crime forced networks to take a grittier stance with regards to its police programming. Now, instead of repetitive crime-solving formulas, Fox (COPS) and the like could put these "men and women of law enforcement" in your living room as they were chasing down a suspect or Tasering a homeless man (although that last one doesn't usually make final cut). Fictional network programs moved their focus to the "procedural," where cops mostly play a supporting role.

But it's in reality programming where police shows still thrive, often with a humorous slant (World's Wildest Police Videos). This isn't the case with Border Patrol, which definitely wants you to feel the tension involved in living on the U.S.-Mexico border, where you could LITERALLY DIE AT ANY MOMENT.

There's so much shouting on this show. Don't those Border Patrol guys know you catch more flies with honey than vinegar? My grandmother probably would've been a lousy interdiction agent.

The opening credits are shot like one of those tabloid crime shows, which makes sense. The entire show looks like it was directed by Natural Born Killers era Oliver Stone. And I'm pretty sure it's narrated by the guy who does the Wolf Brand Chili commercials.

Never mind, his name is Bill Graves, who may or may not be an ex-cop or the former Governor of Kansas. Whatever, I'll be he makes a mean bowl of chili.

Sign me up for bonfire duty.
The show travels the length of the nearly 2,000-mile border, but I chose "Traffic," because it focused on South Texas, and because the movie was pretty cool. Each episode follows the same format: a handful of vignettes broken up by quick night vision shots of people running through brush and glamor shots of impounded drugs. One such agent, Gilbert Ramirez, tracks illegals through some brushlands north of the border. They could probably spend the entire hour on that, but endless footage of dehydrated illegals being from marches back to poverty seems somehow ... demoralizing.

In Mission, Texas, Cpl Manuel Casas and Officer Chris Piland share amusing anecdotes about friends in San Antonio and Houston speaking admiringly of their daring drug seizures. And even standing around waiting to raid a house is lent an aura of intensity by the gritty, Lethal Weapon-ish music.

The best/worst part of the raid is when they tell the woman who answers the door they "need permission to enter the house." Say what? They got a tip about 2,000 pounds of weed and didn't bother getting a warrant? How hard can it be in a border town? What would Judge Roy Bean say?

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