New reality show "Smile, You're Under Arrest"

Fox's new reality show pilot called Smile, You're Under Arrest features people with outstanding warrants getting tricked for the audience's amusement before being arrested.

Fox President of Alternative Entertainment Mike Darnell calls it "a reverse Punk’d. Instead of the worst day of your life and then a joke at the end, this is the reverse. This is the best day of your life, and then we arrest you.”

One of three set-ups just shot in Arizona features the cops luring a criminal to a movie set with the promise of making him an extra and paying him a couple hundred dollars. An elaborate film set is staged and filming begins on a faux movie. The set-up continues as the director then gets mad at the lead actor, fires him and replaces him with the law-breaking extra.

The scene escalates with the fake director introducing the mark to a supposed studio mogul and continuing to create this dream-comes-true sequence. Finally, all the participants are revealed as officers of the law, and the criminal is apprehended (before signing waivers to let the footage be used in the show).

New reality show "Smile, You're Under Arrest" (Via The Agitator)

UPDATE: Fox is working with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office on this show, which is no surprise. Here are some previous posts about Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office:

Maricopa County Sheriff's Department burn down a house and kill puppy over traffic citations

Sheriff Joe Arpaio arrests newspaper owners for complaining about grand jury investigation

Real life transmission of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Madison Street Jail

American Idol for prisoners

Jail's official color is pink


  1. Excellent observation, Secret Life of Plants.

    BTW, isn’t there some kind of reality show to be had out of the mortgage crisis?

  2. Will somebody in a country where gay marriage is legal please marry me so that I can get the hell out of here.

  3. I’m curious what police get out of this. Isn’t there some less convuluted way to arrest people.

    I think this is an example of a problem with how our society treats criminals. It’s just assumed that because someone has broken the law that it’s somehow ok to expose them to indignities we wouldn’t allow normally.

    This is not to say that criminals should not be arrested, persecuted, and punished. A free society can’t continue to function if people are simply allowed to crap on that freedom. My point is that none of these things should be done for the sake of entertainment.

  4. Do the police in Arizona (and anywhere else this show will be filmed) really have nothing better to do?

    How about they just arrest the guy in the normal fashion, and then get on with protecting the citizens who pay their salaries from murderers, rapists, thieves, and drunk drivers.

  5. I think spinning it out, rather than just going ahead and arresting them upon arrival, violates the “cruel and unusual” clause.

    But what else did you expect from Fox?

  6. In France they have a game show where people solve anagrams and do complicated math problems.

    This FOX show would probably be considered some form of psychological torture or cruel and unusual punishment.

    I guess there are cultural differences between the US and France.

  7. Police Depts have been doing “stings” like this for ages.
    Usually it involves sending out notices that the person with the warrant has “won” something and they have to go to some address to collect the “prize”.
    When they arrive and show ID, they are promptly arrested for the outstanding warrant.

    This just kicks it up a notch and makes it more entertaining for TV.

    Also- this treatment is usually reserved for people that are otherwise just not easy to arrest. They already have warrants out on them.
    Rather than spend lots of time and money trying to track down one person and then serve them, it is much safer (and cheaper) to trick them into coming to you because they are greedy.

  8. How about a reality TV show that follows the criminal after he is released from prison and exacts revenge on society for his public humiliation?,

    Then again, maybe this could work as some sort of re-integrative shaming process. He still gets to be on TV, after all. I remember the scene from Storytelling where the kid’s house and family are destroyed but he’s still happy because he’s ‘famous.’

  9. I would expect that they won’t be using this method on people wanted for murder or the like.

    So, basicly, they have a bunch of cops spending a day or so setting up and running a con (‘cuz that’s what it is) to catch a single minor criminal in a theoretically amusing way, rather than doing it the old-fashioned way.

    Yay, police efficiency.

  10. This just kicks it up a notch and makes it more entertaining for TV.

    So would rotten tomatoes and branding irons.

    Welcome back to the 18th century everyone.

  11. I’m not laughing. It sounds just like Punk’d and then you get arrested. It’s just plain mean. FOX would never do it on white collar criminals. Plus I doubt they would have enough of a sense of humor about it to sign a waiver. Parody awaits.

  12. I think people need to reread the part where it says that the arrestee signs a voluntary waver. That being said, I certainly believe that there are going to be a lot of people who won’t want to sign the wavers and it seems really horrible to toy around with them before the arrest for the benefit of Fox. I do like the idea of videoing all arrests, albeit for police brutality reasons.

  13. Also, I’m willing to bet they get financial compensation for signing that waiver, a la most daytime “Judge X” shows. That money can go toward hiring an attorney, one that isn’t a public defender overwhelmed by a potentially-unconstitutional caseload:

    Until we fix that, I find it difficult to criticize them for perhaps taking advantage of an opportunity to obtain less-harried representation (says the woman who will be a public defender in 1.5 years).

  14. I don’t think they’ve taken it far enough.

    Once they reveal the hoax, they need to give the guy a machine gun (and perhaps a cigar?), and one chance to make it out alive…

  15. Coming soon to a FOX near you. Christians vs. Lions, who will win? or IBFL- International Bar Fight Leauge. Really depends on how many Burger King ads we can fit in there.
    Said Bill O’Reilly about SYUA, “Liberals think this is degrading and a waste of police time and effort. Not real Americans.”
    Have we really gone so low that we’re going to make comedy out of arrests? They can do these but don’t show millions of people.

  16. Next up on FOX, “Ow, my balls!”. Followed by the new season premire of “Ow, my balls!” and hilights of the hilarious “Ow, my balls!”. In the meantime, please watch these advertisments for corn-based products! Sponsored by “Ow, my balls!”

  17. Police Depts have been doing “stings” like this for ages…

    …Rather than spend lots of time and money trying to track down one person and then serve them, it is much safer (and cheaper) to trick them into coming to you because they are greedy.

    Exactly. Police Departments, not TV producers. Once you start changing police procedures to make an arrest more entertaining for television broadcast you have destroyed your credibility as a law enforcement agency.

  18. While the whole sting idea has worked quite well for many jurisdictions, this seems a bit gratuitous, to say the least. And a real waste of police time and energy. Does FOX pay the officers for their time? Most places don’t allow officers to get paid for doing anything but being a cop while they’re on the clock.
    And really? this is just tacky. FOX- bringing new depths to television!

  19. Next season on FOX:

    “Life on the Streets” – a reality-based show, tear-jerker drama about families kicked out of foreclosed homes. “Little Jimmy has a new cardboard box to sleep in – yay!”

    “Because I’m Rich” – docu-drama showing ‘rich and famous’ celebs getting away with behavior that would put the rest of us in jail (can anyone say ‘Elliot Spitzer’?)

    “Double-Standard” – reality show about the enormous differnces between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ (not shown in NYC because of reduced riot police squads).

    “Lifestyles of the Poor and Ordinary” – reality show based entirely on middle-class America home movies.

    (all plot outlines described above copyrighted 2008 by ‘subdude61,inc.’)

  20. yay, yet another fox show I won’t be watching. Seriously, they’re the worst broadcast TV network in the ‘states by a mile.

  21. I dunno; in Japan, they have shows where they basically torture innocent people just for laughs. Maybe we’re the ones playing catch-up.

  22. Time moves on, and while unfashionable governments are still getting inspiration from 1984, the cool kids in power are looking toward 2017 as prophesied by Paul Verhoeven in The Running Man, starring the Governor of California.

    Next up: Climbing for Dollars.

  23. crosses the line. Unless those caught are compensated somehow, something is being stolen from them.

    On the other hand, the declared system IS the legitimate system. Bring back the arena and games, so long as it is official. And ALL are subject to it.

  24. The sad thing is many felons will be so thrilled to be on TV that they won’t care about the reason. After they’re released they’ll be ready to turn this opportunity into their shot at the big time. Even if they don’t get a record deal or their own fragrance, they can come back for the reunion show.

  25. What is the likelihood that they’ll include Internal Affairs cases? Heck, that could be its own series, “One Bad Apple (After Another).”

  26. Coming soon:

    “Hah hah, you’re losing your kids!”

    SWAT teams accompanied by overbearing, sarcastic child protective services workers burst into shabby apartments and tear shrieking kids away from sobbing, strung-out mothers.

  27. fox gives us bread and puppets, film at eleven. oh, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the worst of the worst. there are folks doing 3-5 for the possession of a joint. his methods are degrading and dehumanizing. on my last trip to cali, we were stopped going thru, and coming back. both times all our belongings were scattered on the side of the road and their dogs sniffing through the contents and finding squat, which seemed to piss them off even more. because we had florida tags was probable cause enough for them! i drive i-20 now when possible.

  28. I hope they show the episodes where it backfires, and turns into the worst day of the cops life, when the angry criminal pulls a gun and exacts some measure of revenge.

  29. it’s one thing to ruin someone’s life by busting them for crimes they committed. This may just spark a long term consequence since it is permanent, personal and strips the last vestige of dignity. A very good chance someone put away for ten years might hold onto a grudge. Foolish, all who participate in it. Little fear of Ill’s scenario of instant revenge though. You can be sure any who draw a weapon will be cut down like dogs by sniper fire.

  30. Believe it or not, I just opened my mailbox and found a screener DVD of this show in my mailbox. I’ll watch it and report back.

  31. This is the best thing since “Dateline: To Catch A Predator” where they bust guys who go to meet ostensible 13 year old girls from chat rooms.

  32. @ILL LICH,
    I hope they show the episode where it backfires and it turns out they didn’t get the right person and they not only get the best day of their life, they get a huge settlement!

    I also hope this doesn’t even begin to get filmed.

  33. Wow. Gross. And sorry Antinous, I’m already married – and while Canada’s being good about the gay thing they aren’t quite up to speed on poly relationships ;)

  34. I don’t know much about US law, but why do they have to set up elaborate scenarios just to arrest someone (whether it’s on TV or not). If a guy has an outstanding warrant, and they know where he is… then why not just arrest him?

  35. #13: Oh man, South Africa ran the same show (in English though, and locally produced), called “A word or two”. They acknowledged their show being based on the French show in the end credits, and I had always wondered… It’s fantastic, wholesome television.

    This. Erm. Words escape me. Images of deadly bloodsports in amphitheatres 2000 years ago.

    From the article:
    “If it were a regular person you’d feel bad for them, but they are all wanted by the law,”

    That sounds far, far too much like: “If it were a regular person they’d have rights, but they are all wanted by the law,”

    1. but they are all wanted by the law

      But they wouldn’t be wanted by the law unless they were criminals, right?


  36. Whoa whoa whoa… now that has to be some sort of crime.

    Setting up a suspect for a cruel psychological trick has got to fall and nestle comfortably into “cruel and unusual punishment”. Doing it without even acquiring a conviction first? Even worse.

    I really don’t think such a thing can be real. It’s hard to beleive any police department would be stupid enough to paint “SUE US!” on their backs like that.

  37. just when I think tv cant get lower.

    And that sherriff should be stripped of office he’s a complete disgrace.

    This is absolutely appalling. F*ck off, Fox.

  38. Guys, Arpaio is more than a weird guy. He is a murderer and torturer who encourages murder & torture on his watch.
    “Charles Agster, a 33-year-old mentally handicapped man, died in the county jail three days after being forced by sheriff’s officers into a restraint chair used for controlling combative arrestees.”
    “According to an investigation by Amnesty International, Scott Norberg was already handcuffed and face down when officers dragged him from his cell and placed him in a restraint chair with a towel covering his face. After Norberg’s corpse was discovered, detention officers accused Norberg of attacking them as they were trying to restrain him.”
    Arpaio “investigated” those officers and cleared them

    “Richard Post was a paraplegic inmate arrested in 1996 for possession of marijuana and criminal trespass. Post was placed in a restraint chair by guards and his neck was broken in the process. The event, caught on video, shows guards smiling and laughing while Post is being injured.”

    And the death of Ambria Spencer following the sherriff’s refusal to take her mother to the hospital, leaving her in excruciating pain for hours “By the time the ambulance arrived at the Maricopa County Hospital, Spencer had been in severe pain and without a doctor for almost four hours. Doctors delivered Ambria Renee Spencer, a 9-pound baby girl with a quarter-inch of thick hair on her head.. Ambria was dead. Spencer’s pain had been caused by internal bleeding — a malady known as placental abruption. Babies often survive the condition, if their mothers go immediately to a hospital. The treatment is simple: immediate delivery. Otherwise, the baby dies from blood loss.”

    check this for more

    I think he merits more than a “haha weird” post on boingboing.

  39. What about “innocent until proven guilty”?

    I hadn’t heard about him before. Since I’m Hispanic and drive a nice car, I’m avoiding that county next time I’m driving out to Cali. Might be accused of being an illegal or something, even though I was born in this country. His abuses are just…bah! Do people read in that county? Apparently not, because they keep on electing him.

  40. What about “innocent until proven guilty”?

    Where have you been for the past 8 years? In the US, that notion is as quaint and obsolete as habeas corpus and the Geneva convention.

  41. this is a joke right?
    i haven’t read all of the above posts, but im sure someone mentioned arnold schwarzenegger in ‘running man’?
    To think of the US having the death penalty, to think of gliding scales and such.. the horror, the horror…

  42. I’ve met Arpaio personally. That guy is a grade-A self-important douche of the worst kind. The funniest thing I remember is that he was banging his fist on the conference table so much to emphasize his talking points that his snap-close watch band kept popping open. Happened at least 3-4 times.

    Anyway, this really isn’t that much of a stretch beyond what other things he’s done in AZ, as noted by others. Big media attention-getting circus events are what he craves and gets off on. All the old retirees in phx love him cuz he sells himself as being ‘tough on crime’ in the old fashion sense, when in reality he’s truly pathological.

    I’m sure he’s been in the producer’s corner during filming fapping away and fantasizing over his name getting on a national network once a week.

  43. This was their second choice. The Bum Fights guy wanted too much money. Fox and Arpaio deserve each other.

    I hope this will be remembered at the next FCC hearing.

  44. Secret_Life_of_Plants @13: I guess there are cultural differences between the US and France.

    If you were able to type that with a straight face, I commend you.

  45. “Morally bankrupt” doesn’t even come close to describing this story. It almost makes me feel physically sick, I’m off to complain, probably wont make any difference but what the hell. It paints the network, industry and america as a whole in a very bad light indeed. I hope others share my outrage.

    Fox’s feedback address:

  46. This reminds me of a game show they had in newly-post-cold-war Russia (I’m sure Fox’ll pick this up any day now)

    The contestant would be given a car, and a ten minute head start, the car would then be reported stolen.

    A manhunt / police chase would then ensue – with no regard for public safety.

    If he could avoid the (very real) Russian police for half an hour, he got to keep the car – if he was caught, he would be dragged from the car, and have the snot beaten out of him.

    Luckily the Police were in on it (i.e. knew it was a game show) otherwise they had a “shoot to kill” policy for car theft.

    Thing is, new cars were so coveted that there was actually a waiting list to be on the show…

  47. So…this kind of stuff happens all the time (especially the ‘we need extras for a DeNiro (or whomever) film’ ploy). I’m interested as to whether people are against the inherent idea of “tricking” WANTED CRIMINALS into showing up somewhere to have ARREST WARRANTS served, or just that it’s on your telly.

    as an aside, the Hodgman capitalization of certain words in a sentence can be very satisfying.

  48. Sheriff Joe presides over a county with over 40,000 outstanding felony warrants, but there is no officer on staff whose job it is to find them- unlike other counties, which aren’t even nearly as large as Maricopa:

    Among many other bits of asinine behavior is the case of James Saville, who tried to make a bomb to blow up Arpaio.

    Of course, if you read the story, you find out that sheriff’s deputies drove Saville around to make the bomb parts. The sheriff’s office lost that case when it came to court, finding that the sheriff’s office had entrapped Saville.

    The latest thing is how the sheriff’s office has been taking junkets to Honduras on the taxpayer’s dime- using hundreds of thousands of dollars from RICO funds to pay for it.

    And, of course, every time someone new dies in one of his restraint chairs, they pay out millions of dollars- which takes more officers off the street because their insurance deductible has gone way the heck up. Plus, his jail has lost accreditation. But that’s not *his* fault, you see.

    And these dumbasses keep electing him back in.

  49. Taking bets on how many episodes are filmed before one of these “pranks” ends in a horrific bloodbath.

  50. This latest outrage is another fine example of pure, cowardly, Yellow Journalism. (like – To Catch A Predator).

    It also smells of the right wing ideology of finding a target to direct their hatred.

    Arthur Buxton #71 – I will follow your advice and let Fox know how they disgrace Amercia with their poor judgement.

  51. If you catch the opening of Sea of Love (Al Pacino/Ellen Barkin – 1989) you can see a similar police sting in action. I believe the screenwriter may have been inspired by the NYPD which actually pulled of a similar stunt. They would mail letters to a felon’s last known address telling them they had won something and then, when the felon arrived to pick up their prize, they’d lower the boom.

  52. The good old Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a fascist bastard. He is in need of some tough love in the form of a size 13 boot right up his arse. Hopefully sometime soon he will be gone and some freedom will return to AZ

  53. Does Joe Arpaio have any higher political ambitions? Perhaps Sarah Palin might have some competition for the 2012 nomination.

  54. Secret_Life_of_Plants @13: I guess there are cultural differences between the US and France.

    If you consider sociopathy to be a cultural difference.

  55. You know what would be really creepy? If someone who were starring in the show kept using sock puppets in this comment thread to talk about how hot she is.

    Yes, I’m looking at you.

  56. First, this violates ‘cruel and unusual punishment’. Second, don’t these people have to sign waivers?

  57. Cruel Psychological trick? What are you people talking about? They are wanted. They have a warrant out for their arrest. They were captured by the MCSO using tatctics that all PD’s use – a sting. Te only difference is that they were pranked for a few moments longer than usual. Well you know what dont waste the cops time and we wont waste your time. NO biggie. Everyone is making this like it’s the end of civilization. Some of the comments are more frightening to me than capturing wanted fugitives using a sting operation.

    Gt lf ppl. Blog about animal cruelty…racism…but this? Come on.

  58. “I’m nxt going to brag,” Arpaio said, “bxt there isn’t anybody in the world who doesn’t know who this shxxxxf asshole is.”

    Comments won’t accept strike through.

  59. I’ve just watched an episode of this program which aired in December on Reality TV. I just have to say I won’t watch again. I think it is malicious. I know some of these people may be dangerous criminals; they may be damaged people who can’t be trusted, and the police really need to get them off the streets to protect the public at large. But once they had been lured to the spot, it wasn’t necessary to use them like circus animals and mock them – at some level, they are human beings, too. I thought it degraded the officers and did little to instil good feelings of the public at large about what their tax money goes for, and the attitude of police officers in general.

    Thanks for considering my opinion with that of others. flt/anonymous

  60. Wow. Way to make someone feel like total garbage on national TV. I ran from from a warrant for ten years. People can make mistakes and actually learn from it themselves. Way to feed off of human misery.

  61. you can watch this now on hulu. I caught on episode and I thought it was sick. Definitely the cruel and unusual punishment must apply. Can’t wait to read the news article about them being sued.

  62. Reminds me how Stalin used to invite people to dinner and a movie before revealing he had arrested their children and was holding them hostage until they gave him what he wanted.

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