Bobby Goldstein, the former divorce attorney who dreamed up Cheaters, says we all have the capacity to stray.
By EMILY NIPPS
Published August 3, 2004
[Photos: Bobby Goldstein Productions]
In a scene from Cheaters, the woman on the left has caught this man, whom she suspects of cheating on her, with the other woman.
The host of Cheaters, Joey Greco, and one of the show's clients. Greco was once stabbed during the taping of an episode.
Bobby Goldstein, a former divorce attorney and father of four, created Cheaters and is the executive producer.
It's too painful to enjoy but too engrossing to make you change the channel. This seems to be a winning formula for Cheaters, a popular syndicated reality show that airs on Saturday and Sunday night on WMOR-Ch. 32.
The premise is simple: A client suspects his or her significant other is cheating and calls on Cheaters for help. The Cheaters private investigators, along with a camera crew, look into the matter, follow the significant other as he or she shares time with a "third party" in cars, bars and hotels, and record the trysts on tape. When the host, Joey Greco, shows the client the footage, a closeup captures the client's horror as Greco feigns sympathy.
After a commercial break comes a confrontation, an unpredictable car wreck of emotion that keeps viewers tuned in until the (always) bitter end.
Question the show's ethics all you want. People love this stuff. In its fourth year, Cheaters is the top weekly syndicated program in its time slots among Tampa Bay area women ages 18 to 24, according to Nielsen. It also rates strongly among men 24 to 54.
Bobby Goldstein, a former divorce attorney and father of four who dreamed up Cheaters and is now the executive producer, makes no apologies. He talked to the St. Petersburg Times from his Dallas office about love affairs, the infamous stabbing incident, the one that almost got away and why he doesn't watch the show.
How did you come up with the concept of "Cheaters"?
Well, now that's a trade secret. It's like what's in that Coca-Cola syrup, you know? If I gave away my lunacy and the way my brain ticks, then someone could take over my thought processes and, you know, take me to another universe or something.
But, you know, I had a lot of personal and professional experiences that gave rise to the way one thinks and the way one sees things and the dimensions that we live in. So I think you could say it was a combination of all that, but uh . . . it was one hysterical moment, I can tell you that.
The idea for the show came out of a hysterical moment?
Yeah, it was one hysterical moment that was the eureka moment for Cheaters.
What was that? Tell me about it.
Oh, I just would be ashamed to. (Laughs) I would be ashamed to.
Is it safe to say it was a hysterical moment that involved cheating?
Were you cheated on?
Yep. So I'm not the master of cheaters, see, I'm just a student of it just like everybody else. It can happen to anybody.
So that was the impetus for the show?
No, (the cheating) happened after the show started.
Are you married?
No. I recently divorced.
Was that your first marriage?
No, second. Second and last.
Okay. Moving on. Why do people want to watch a show about people cheating?
I think there's several factors. I think people like it because they like human drama and the confrontation and the car wreck. I think some people watch it for their own prurient interests in the subject matter. They're cheaters, and they're trying to see what methodologies are used and how they can escape detection. They're trying to learn something.
Or maybe they've been cheated on and they really have a lot of compassion for these characters, these people that are in this series. And then I think there are some that are just intrigued with voyeurism and reality TV.
What have you learned from "Cheaters"?
Professionally and personally, you think you've seen it all, but you never have. I'm 46 now, and I started this nine years ago at 35 or 36. That's when I actually wrote this program, and it took two or three years to make a pilot (episode). Every day I learn something new and different.
Primarily, what I've learned is you can never put (affairs) past anybody. No matter how pure you think they are, people will have affairs. You cannot ignore that anybody can succumb to temptation.
The other thing is, if you want to avoid that, you need to go out of your way to be more wonderful to your spouse than you should expect from them.
What's the weirdest thing that has happened in the four years the show has aired?
Probably the time we were tracking down a fellow that we never could catch. We just never could see him leave the building he was supposedly living in. And it didn't dawn on us that every time he left, he was dressed as a woman. He was going out in drag and doing transvestite stuff.
I have to ask you about the time Joey Greco got stabbed by a cheating suspect during a taping. How do you avoid those kinds of dangers?
Joey wears Kevlar now, so he's bulletproof, and we have tasers at every junction. What happened was, we were on a fishing boat, and the guy was fishing and had a fishing knife in his hand. I guess the motion of the crew on the boat caused it to become unstable. We can't really say whether he did it intentionally or not. He got arrested and charged, and then our lawyers worked it out so he wouldn't be prosecuted and we wouldn't be sued.
And Joey, fortunately, didn't have any significant injuries to any organs in his abdomen, but he does have a scar, of course.
Did he consider quitting?
No, Joey is as tough as nails. He went to Evangel University (a Christian school in Missouri), so when that happened, he felt like it was his calling to keep going and carrying on with his mission of helping people.
He was always committed to it as a performance artist in the beginning, but then I think he got spiritually devoted to the program at that point.
Is it ever hard for you to watch the show?
Oh, yeah. Honestly, I can't watch it anymore.
I don't. I review it for censorship and, you know, make sure it's sanitized enough to be on the air. But I rarely watch an episode unless I'm bored on a Saturday night and it comes on in the city that I'm in.
It's very painful for me to watch it, not only from my own personal perspective but just to see these people go through what they go through. I'm not saying that I don't want other people to watch it if they like it, but for me, I am . . . I guess I'm just too old and tender to take it anymore.