A 'reality-TV' show consisting of office security camera footage showing employees engaging in various crimes or violations of company rules. While shoplifting is the most common activity, ... See full summary »
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 Himself - Narrator (1996) (voice)
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A 'reality-TV' show consisting of office security camera footage showing employees engaging in various crimes or violations of company rules. While shoplifting is the most common activity, the show includes tapes of people vandalizing their workplace, stealing from customers, having sex, and even burning down their offices. Written by Jean-Marc Rocher <rocher@fiberbit.net>

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Entertaining exposé
24 June 2012 | by See all my reviews

Some will think "Busted" will a total waste of time--controversy pornography that we enjoy laughing over to remind ourselves how stupid most people are while simultaneously inflating our own egos--, and not without reason. There is a kind of perversity to the success of such shows as this or of "Cops," a perversity to the notion that other people's lives and in particular their personal defects and miseries are legitimate entertainment.

On the other hand, there is a hidden value to these sorts of documentaries in terns of the salacious exposés they offer. Three insights are fairly roundly illustrated by the clips from "Busted":

First of all, a professional conscience is not an overly common thing. (Arguably, in this artificial world, for many people and occupations it is not even natural, but that is another issue.) Most people do not do their jobs "well," due to incompetence, insensitivity or outright bad will. "Busted" perhaps focuses on this last point disproportionately, but the spectacle ought to be a wake-up call to ordinary managers not necessarily to constantly monitor but to understand their employees' motivation (or lack thereof). It should also inspire most people who earn wages--the vast majority of breadwinners in France or the U.S.A. do--to re-examine our own professional conduct. Would I like to have myself as an employee? "Do unto others..."

Second, caveat emptor. Unless one is a subsistence farmer, one depends on people all the time, and increasingly those people are strangers. Companies can rave all they like about "customer service," but most people working in retail or food/beverage nurse a healthy contempt for their company's clients, strangers to themselves. "Busted" just happens to show a few of the more outlandish incidents of people cracking, particularly in the food industry. (But as one busted food service employee explains, "For every one of me that's been caught, there are three or four more out there who haven't been caught.") These are undoubtedly the most horrifying clips and should make one pause to consider a concept that in France is called terroir: food is always better when you know exactly where it came from and how it was prepared, and the more stages of production you yourself are involved in, the better the taste and the safer. If the show encourages Americans (and French people, and others) to stop wasting cool cash on overpriced, overcooked and over-sized platters, to learn how to cook and maybe even reconsider the kind of lifestyle choices that drive them to restaurants, that can't be a bad thing.

Finally, cameras are everywhere. One segment in the third episode discussed where to look for a hidden camera if you suspected you were being watched. "Well, I hate to break it to you," says the expert, "but it could be just about anywhere--up, down, left, right..." Mind you, this was 1996 and 1997. Since then, prices have plummeted, physical size has shrunk considerably, and both the qualitative and the quantitative capacities have grown exponentially for video and data storage equipment. One must never assume one is completely in private unless in one's own home (and even then one must be careful, especially if one lives in certain countries).

For the most part, with the exception of a few interspersed interviews with experts, "Busted" consists only of documentary clips with a voice-over commenting on the clips themselves rather than on their implications, and the show does not really try that hard to synthesize the clips with these overarching themes. That in my mind makes the show more surreal and harder-hitting, but it also makes for a more entertaining package that many of those who do not make mental connections very quickly will take as nothing more than entertainment and ego-inflation on a boring Thursday night.


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