Sally Ann Salsano sleeps approximately 3 to 4 hours a night. This is because she is one of the most hands-on producers in reality TV, unable to stay away from the sets of her shows. And that attention to detail pays off. “Jersey Shore,” Salsano’s spin on “The Real World” is a runaway hit — scoring some of the biggest ratings numbers in MTV history and making stars out of heretofore unknowns Snooki, JWoww, Sammi, Ronnie, Vinny, Pauly and Deena.
On Tuesday (July 12), another one of Salsano’s projects, “Repo Games,” returns to Spike TV. Zap2it recently talked to the producer about some of the show’s more harrowing moments and the elements that make a reality show a success.
For folks who haven’t watched it yet, could you explain “Repo Games?”
SallyAnn Salsano: It’s literally crazy. It’s the only game show where you’ve lost before you’ve won. Basically we show up at someone’s house and their car’s up for repossession and we give them the opportunity to answer five trivia questions. If they answer three out of five correctly, we pay off their car free and clear. Our motto is, if you can’t pay you may as well play.
What was the inspiration for the show?
It’s like if you take “Jeopardy” and “Let’s Make a Deal” and “Jay Walking” and give it a couple of drinks and shake it up. It’s like this show. This is the only game show you have no idea what you’re going to get when you walk up to the door. Which can be really fun, but can also be really stressful.
We did one that’s in the premiere show (July 12) where someone came out and opened fire on the crew.
What kind of precautions do you take?
We’ve never had a situation quite like this one, but obviously we take precautions. That being said, it is a dice throw. But we are really well prepared and ready to go. See the people are upset — but a lot of the people are excited. Ninety-nine percent of people in this situation have a “story” about why their car shouldn’t be repossessed. And that’s part of the fun — hearing the stories they’re concocting as to why. Win or lose, when we leave the house every single person is happy we came. It’s a time where someone just getting a little break may seem like nothing to some people, but that can be the difference to make it or break it in this economy. And this gives everyday people a chance.
What else can we expect this season aside from the gunfire?
I’d say there’s no shortage of drama, angry people coming out of the house and people’s stories that are fascinating to watch. Thank god we only had one incident that went awry, but there are plenty of other entertaining moments — people trying to drive the cars off the repo trucks. That sort of thing. One thing I love about this repo show is that — I don’t want to say it’s the only, but it’s the only one I know of — where it’s actual people with cars up for repossession who don’t know we’re coming. So you do get the surprise element every single time.
You’re known for being a hands-on producer. Which is your favorite to work on?
I love them all for different reasons. I’m at the “Jersey Shore” right now. I like different things about all of them. I get obsessed. I couldn’t write this stuff — these kids are just fun to watch. That show is all setting up and cleaning up the mess they leave in their wake afterwards.
Could anyone do it or is it that combination of personalities that took “Jersey Shore” to the next level?
I think that combination is completely awesome, but I think it could work in any setting. It’s just getting the right combination together. There’s tons of different people with different personalities that would make a great show. But these kids really hit it off.
What other shows do you watch?
I love “Storage Wars,” “Extreme Couponing,” I love “Sister Wives” more than life. I love the Kardashians, but I literally think I’m obsessed with their hair. If I could figure out how to have a pony tail like Kim Kardashian I would be the happiest girl alive. I really don’t watch scripted TV — I’m just not interested. I am not high brow, I just like some good old-fashioned reality TV. I am all over the reality map. I just love it.