'Repo Games' TV show to feature Indiana contestants

March 26, 2012

Tom DeTone knows what it feels like to have to hide his car from a repossession agent.

"I've been there in my life before," the host of Spike Television's "Repo Games" said. "I know what it is like to walk two to five blocks or ask a buddy to let you park it in their garage. It isn't good hiding from your responsibilities and obligations."

DeTone said he doesn't want to have to be the bad guy — as a repossession agent either in real life or as one of two hosts of the game show — but said, at the end of the day he's doing his job.

After decades in the repossession business, DeTone answered a casting call for the "Repo Games" show. He and Josh Lewis were chosen as hosts of the show that goes to cities across America — many of which are facing tough financial times like Anderson — and give residents who are facing a repossession a chance to have their vehicle paid off on the spot by answering three of five questions correctly. If the contestant can't answer the questions, the vehicle is taken and repossession is carried out as normal.

"I don't want to be the bad guy," DeTone said. "It is a very tough job to do. At the end of my day, I take no reward from taking something from someone who has financial difficulty. But doing the show, I am giving them a chance to win their car back."

DeTone was in Anderson in October and filmed with at least two residents here. He recalls the experience here as good but "very cold and rainy," the Arizona native said.

"I liked the people there," he said of Anderson. "It was a different culture, not as fast-paced as New York or Phoenix. People were more laid-back. Being on the road isn't always the easiest thing — living at hotels. People, though, make that experience pleasurable. I liked it there, other than the weather."

The show's two-episode premiere — beginning at 11 p.m. Wednesday on Spike — will feature an Anderson resident playing the game. The episode featuring Anderson will be at 11:30 p.m.

DeTone said several residents followed the crew around during filming, very interested in the process. Some were a little angry, expressing feelings that DeTone was taking advantage of people facing financial hardships.

"In this business everyone hates the repo man," he said. "We are the people affecting their lives. What they seem to forget, though, is that they are the ones with the obligation to make a payment to their lenders. So when they give us the chance to say, 'We are giving you a chance to get away from that debt, to win your car, paid off 100 percent right here,' it all changes. We become friends."

In addition to Wednesday's episode, there is a second segment featuring an Anderson resident.

Spike publicist Kevin Sornatale said Anderson was chosen as "there is a lot of character in the state of Indiana, so along with Anderson, the show also shot in Indianapolis and McCordsville."

DeTone couldn't give specifics of any of the incidents in Anderson, but he said he remembers filming with an Anderson woman by the name of Johnnie.

"I assumed Johnnie was a guy and I'm thinking I may have to get in a fight," DeTone said. "A woman comes to the door and says she is Johnnie. I didn't believe her at first. She comes to the door and sees a guy in a bullet-proof vest and two camera guys and sees her car hooked up to a tow truck. But once I explained everything going on, it was OK. She was a great lady and fun to play with."

During filming in October, The Herald Bulletin observed filming near 29th and Jefferson streets. They watched a female contestant answer several questions while her vehicle was attached to a tow truck. After cheering by those watching, the tow truck released her car and drove away.

Those bystanders were positive about the filming.

Shirley Moore said she watched the show "all the time" and hoped they filmed many of the shows here so many could benefit.

"It's great," she said. "It gives you a chance to keep your car if you are behind on your payments."

But not everyone is so positive. DeTone said there have been some pretty tense moments. During the filming of an episode in Las Vegas, a then-40-year-old man shot at the show's film crew because the production van was parked outside his house. He is currently facing five counts of attempted murder, DeTone said.

And show detractors say the show exploits people in dire financial straits.

"People who say that aren't looking at the big picture," DeTone said. "If I could take those people and ask them if they had the opportunity to get the car paid off, regardless if they are behind, not one of them would say no. In this situation, the person is going to lose their car. 'Repo Games' is not making anyone do anything. We are not twisting their arm. They've already lost their car. Without us, their car would be picked up and they'd never even see it. We are giving them a chance to keep it owing nothing."

An oft-asked question is if the show is scripted.

"It is 100 percent real," DeTone said. "We've had so many funny outcomes on the show, you really need to watch. People will do anything to keep their cars. This is their livelihood, so we've had people do some crazy things to keep their car."

In his real life as a repo agent — DeTone was actually doing surveillance for a repo job during this phone interview — he's seen some pretty intense, colorful and dangerous situations.

"I've been shot at, stabbed with a pencil, had anything and everything thrown at me — if a person has an ice cream cone or hamburger they are going to hit you with it," he explained between chuckles. "I've been attacked by a bunch of girls. The list could go on and on and on. Everything from naked people coming to the door to finding people doing drugs in their cars — as soon as I say I've seen it all or experienced it all, you know something else crazy is going to happen."


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