Drug Busts, Foreign Fruit, and Fluffy Animals: Two Customs and Border Security Reality Series

One of my nagging moral concerns about my interest in true crime is as to whether there is a division between harmless curiosity and exploitative voyeurism. This may also explain my general avoidance of reality TV.

So my disclaimer on Border Security: Australia’s Front Line and its spin-off Border Security: Canada’s Front Line is that both shows have come under scrutiny for violating the privacy of travelers and others featured. At issue is whether informed consent has been obtained or not. The Canadian production ended after three seasons because civil-rights issues so concerned the border control agency that they declined to continue cooperating with producers.

In my defense, I only discovered this after watching and wondering how they were allowed to make these shows.

If you are not too put off by this, it is pleasant enough television. In the Australian version the standard case usually involves traces of heroin in someone’s suitcase or a family’s well-meaning stash of banned foodstuffs collected on a trip abroad to visit relatives in the Old Country. The Canadian show features a lot of Americans trying to cross the border with medical marijuana and being surprised to discover it is illegal to transport it across international boundaries.

Call it educational, because the customs agents are constantly turning to the camera to remind those watching at home that lying is a bad idea. If you declare your twenty pounds of apples, they get thrown away and you get to go on your merry way. Say you don’t have them, and pay $200 in Australian/Canadian currency, which I believe is at an exchange advantage to the US dollar. Ouch.

The two cases that stick with me both come from the Canadian production.

In one, a man travelling by bus from the U.S. is stopped for behaving suspiciously. Opening his suitcase, agents find dozens of plastic sandwich bags filled with white powder. Testing confirms that it is…sugar?

In the other, a woman returns to Canada after driving all the way from Mexico with several dozen rescue dogs and cats in her car. She is bringing them to their new homes. She is able to provide medical documents for them all, and the pets are able to go North of the border without incident. Unorthodox, but admirable. The Cat approves.

Because of the rescues, and the various detector dogs featured on the show, I thought this would be something nice and light after a hard week.

2/5 stars: Pleasant enough. I put it on in the background while washing dishes.

1/5 fraidy cats: The suspense is manufactured and nothing is scary. Be prepared to have a     conversation with younger viewers about drugs and the sex industry, though.

1/5 ick-factor: Depends on your feelings about storing slabs of meat in suitcases.

 

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