Imagine getting a phone call at your mundane place of work one day from a vice president of a major production company. To your immense surprise, she asks if you would come down and see the casting director for a new ABC television show for which they think you’d be perfect – and the wild and crazy thing is, you are! Life never ceases to amaze.
While my regular job as a senior detective with a major west coast metropolitan police department isn’t exactly as mundane as some, I was still caught by surprise when I received the above call. I also have a second career as a published novelist and produced screenwriter, but I’d never entertained thoughts of being in front of the camera. Yet, here I was, at fifty years plus, going through the audition process and finding out my professional skills as a nationally recognized interrogator could be put to use in ways I’d never imagined.
“Take the Money and Run” premieres on ABC on August 2, 2011, at 9 PM. It merges Cops & Robbers with Hide & Seek and wraps it all up in a reality game format with a prize of $100,000. The show is under the auspices of the producer of The Amazing Race, Bertram Van Munster, and his partner Jerry Bruckheimer – you couldn’t ask for a better team-up.
My professional cohort, top prosecutor Mary Hanlon Stone, and I are featured as the interrogators on each episode, using our interrogation skills to try and pry the truth out of two of the show’s four contestants. We’ve filmed six episodes around the country and it was both exhausting and incredibly satisfying. I can’t wait for it to premier as I think the audience is in for some big, entertaining surprises.
“Take the Money and Run” pits two average citizen contestants (hiders) against two local law enforcement contestants (seekers) in a non-stop, 48 hour, struggle for a $100,000 prize.
At the start of the game, the hiders – using a rental vehicle – have one hour to hide a briefcase with $100,000 dollars anywhere in their city. When the hour is up, the hiders car is stopped and they are arrested by the seekers, booked into an actual jail, and placed into solitary cells.
This is when Mary and I get involved. As nationally recognized interrogators and crossexaminers in the real world, we now have 48 hours to use our inquisitorial skills on the hiders. Unlike in the real world, the hiders do not have the right to remain silent – they have to talk to us, but they can lie and mislead us as much as they want.
As we pry loose clues and discover lies, we work with the seeker cops. They are in the field searching for the briefcase and tracking down the information established from our interrogations. When the seeker cops know their city extremely well, they can provide great information to help prove or disprove what the hiders are saying during the interrogations. All of this information provides fodder for the next interrogation.
If the location of the briefcase isn’t uncovered within 48 hours, the hiders get to keep the $100,000. If it is found, the seeker cops get to keep the money.
As for Mary and me, whatever the outcome, we move on to the next city and the next Take The Money And Run challenge.
Let’s have a show of hands . . . how many of you in Meridian’s reading audience think you could lie successfully to a professional interrogator when there is $100,000 at stake?
It’s not as easy as it sounds.
Despite not having our two big, real world, interrogatory hammers – guilt and long term incarceration – Mary and I have a toolbox full of finely tuned techniques to get to the truth. We are willing to run through them all, again and again, to find which holds the key to getting the information we need. Sometimes this takes great patience, and when the 48 hours is ticking down, patience can be a scarce commodity.
Sometimes, we don’t need to get you to tell us the truth. Instead, if we can prove your lies, we can make considered assumptions about the truth. And sometimes, we can verbally tie you up in knots to the point you become willing to tell us anything – including the location of the briefcase – just to shut us up.
Or maybe not.
All of this is an intense battle of wills fought to a nail biting finish.
Surprisingly, some of the revelations in the game’s interrogation sessions affected both Mary and I on a very emotional level. When you realize you have the ability to pry information out of essentially innocent people – when you get into their heads and manipulate their frame of mind – you also realize how careful you need to be in the real world, dealing with real suspects, facing real world consequences.
“Take the Money and Run” is true Reality TV. There is no script and no retakes. What you see on the screen is exactly as it happens. It doesn’t matter that this is a game show. Both Mary and I feel our professional reputations are on the line – we can have no doubts about our ability to find the hidden briefcase.
Once the game’s 48 hours starts ticking, we are working flat out – just as if it was an investigation in the real world. In our heads, there is an atomic bomb in the suitcase, not cash, and we are driven – and sometimes desperate – to get the information from the hiders.
One of the main joys of filming “Take the Money and Run”, was working with the a crew who have mostly been together for seventeen seasons
If you aren’t at the top of your profession, or if you have a difficult personality, you aren’t running with these big dogs. The crew brought their best effort to every episode of “Take the Money and Run”, and it shows on the screen. The experience was just that – amazing.
“Take the Money and Run” producer Bertram Van Munster – the man behind “Cops”, “The Amazing Race”, and a dozen other top reality series – took Mary and I under his wing and proved again and again why his vision raises Reality TV to a new level. Every time a problem popped up, he turned it into an opportunity to add another cool aspect to the show. He also trusted us to do what we do best inside the interrogation room – whatever we needed or wanted to try, he made sure we had what we needed.
For our part, Mary and I not only brought our skills as interrogators, but also our creative skills as novelists. Before we ever started working together on criminal cases, Mary and I had been introduced to each other by a mutual friend because of our shared writing interests.
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