Spike's original game show Repo Games combines the action of a docu-reality style program with a basic quiz show, serving up something just a little different from both genres. Real-life repo men Tom DeTone and Josh Lewis serve as hosts, and their job is to locate a vehicle slated for repossession, then offer the owner the chance to win the vehicle back by taking part in a pop-culture quiz. As you can imagine, things don't always go smoothly.
Here, Tom DeTone shares what it's like to face an angry debtor, what he enjoys about the show, and lots more.
Question: So, first episode of the new season and a guy comes at you with a gun. Did you anticipate that when he went back inside, and how did you stay so calm?
Tom DeTone: From experience, you know that the worst thing you can do in a situation like that is to let them out of your sight. You know they're coming out with something. But I expected a baseball bat, not an assault weapon!
At that point though you have to stay calm. You can't pounce or grab or assault the guy. That stuff, that's absolutely real. Do you run? I mean, I'm not a chicken but I'll run if someone's shooting at me. It's all spur of the moment, and you have to decide how to deal with it.
In that instance I wasn't paying attention to the gun, I was paying attention to him. You gotta realize that losing a car means losing other things too - you can't get to work, run errands, provide for your family - it's really stressful for these people and they react. I just wanted to get through to him that he was getting an opportunity here, but it was so hard to get my point across while he was so angry.
Q: Now that you're into your second season, do you find that people are reacting differently to you when they realize they're going to be on the show?
DeTone: People now recognize us sometimes, yeah, but it doesn't really change anything. They see the cameras and the set up and know they're going to be on TV but it doesn't matter. You're there taking their car, they don't care.
Q: With so much going on during filming, how much time actully passes between the time you arrive at someone's door through the end of the trivia portion?
DeTone: It varies a lot. It depends on the person. A guy with a gun takes longer obviously - that guy snapped and went off the deep end. He had to take some time with security to talk him down, make sure the gun wasn't loaded. I mean, this is supposed to be a game show, so obviously we want to show how the contestant reacts, but the focus is on the game. A lot gets edited out so that we can present a real game show here, not just the drama.
Q: So really, you need a sister show that presents all of the drama that goes on behind the scenes.
DeTone: Yeah, Repo Games: After Hours. (laughs)
Q: One of the things that I enjoy about the show is that you and Josh are usually very positive and upbeat, which is interesting considering the situations you get yourselves into. Is it difficult to maintain that positivity?
DeTone: No, that's really just my personality. I'm actually a little shy, but I do this on a daily basis. I try to be positive. I don't want to piss them off, because then they throw stuff at me. Smiling and encouraging them seems to help relieve some of the tension.
Q: Do many people refuse to play the game?
DeTone: Yeah, some people do. There was a guy in Phoenix who didn't want to risk being embarassed. We spent 30-45 minutes trying to convince him to give it a shot. I mean, his neighbors were all gathered around outside waiting for him to play, cheering for him, and we tried to tell him that it would be more embarassing at that point for him not to play. His wife and daughter weren't home - we were even willing to wait for two hours for them to return so he'd have their support, but he just didn't want to do it.
There was another woman in Texas, real pretty woman. She didn't want to play without changing her clothes and having her hair and nails done. Like, she needed to book an appointment and get a complete hair/makeup/nails session, and go pick up a new outfit. She flat out refused to be on television otherwise.
It's crazy - it's like the lottery shows up on their doorstep and they refuse to give it a shot.
Q: When you're not repo-ing or hosting game shows, how do you spend your down time?
DeTone: Oh, I'm out there trying to save the world! Really, I used to be a gym fanatic but not as much any more. I still go, but now I'm spending more time helping people with their training and eating habits, that kind of thing. I also like building motorcycles and hot rod cars.
Q: How did this hosting job come about for you?
DeTone: 495 Productions contacted me about auditioning, but I thought it was a joke at the time. I thought it was my best friend Steve putting one over on me. But it was real, and they flew me down to Phoenix to audition. They put me on the spot there. It's not an easy thing to do, auditioning, and I'm shy to begin with. But I guess they liked me!
I'm really grateful for this opportunity. We've got 35+ crew on the road, and everyone involved in this show, we've all got each others' backs. It's been a great experience so far.
Q: So, even though you probably never thought you'd end up as a game show host, if the opportunity arose, would you consider hosting a more traditional game show?
DeTone: Never in a million years did I think I'd be a game show host! Again? If the opportunity presented itself, yes. Because I really like it. I like making a horrible situation good and giving people the chance to improve their lives.
We'd like to thank Tom DeTone for taking the time to answer our questions! You can catch him on Repo Games on Spike TV. Check the show's official website for air times and show synopses.