This show, which airs on Bravo, is Kim and Aggie with body bags, and it’s voyeuristic compulsive viewing. And despite it being all about those who clear up after what is a tragedy for someone, the majority of it is light hearted and unequivocally entertaining.
It’s the TV equivalent of rubber-necking at the site of a car accident, and, whilst it may well be shameful to admit to a morbid fascination about such things, admit it I must, because I could watch this show all day.
In case you’ve never seen it, How Clean is Your Crime Scene is a fly-on-the-wall documentary series which follows the lives of operatives from Crime Scene Cleaners as they go about their work in the San Francisco Bay area of the USA… The company’s employees attend several hundred calls per month and offer a 24 hour, 365 days a year service. Each one-hour episode follows the company’s owner, Neal Smither, and his team as they go about their gruesome job.
Neal’s fleet of vans bear the words, ‘Homicide, Suicide & Accidental Death’ – and that’s, in a nutshell, exactly what Neal and his team clean up after. From the mess left by a decomposing corpse to the more complex clean up that’s required after a gunshot to someone’s skull, no job is too small, too big or too bloody for Crime Scene Cleaners.
But does that mean that Neal’s a morbid, quietly officious undertaker sort? Nope, it does not. He revels joyously in his job which he first decided to turn into a business venture after watching Pulp Fiction and spotting a gap in the market as he watched one of the characters cleaning up after a murder.
Here’s what Neal has to say on his Beebo blog about his first ventures into crime scene clean-ups…
“My first job came on referral from a mortician. The victim’s sister hired us. It was a lady down in Marina Bay area of Richmond. She had terminal cancer and she’d blown her brains out—shot herself in the head with a .357. Experience-wise, it wasn’t too messy—just enough to cut my teeth and kind of get an indicator of whether I could do this…
“And I learned I was capable of doing it. And when the cleanup was done and I named my price, the client started cutting a check without any hesitation whatsoever. I knew immediately that this work was for me.
“Of course, back then, I was totally inept. My partner and I—I used my wife as my partner on that job—we were there for three hours and I only charged two hundred and fifty dollars. Now, I’d be there an hour and we’d charge five seventy-five. So I’ve learned. I’ve learned so much.
“My second job was so hardcore—I’ll never forget it. When I think of how little I knew, doing a job like that, it just makes me laugh. It was at a fairly upscale condominium complex in Oakland. A hugely fat guy had died on his hide-a-bed. Weeks, weeks and weeks had gone by and no one had discovered him. He was a loner. No one knew he was dead until they smelled it outside and by that time, it was atrocious. My assistant and I—this time it was my sister—opened the door and this ungodly smell just slammed us, big time. We hadn’t learned about wearing respirators yet. We hadn’t a clue.
“Well, the whole bottom of this guy’s bed was encased in plastic from the manufacturer, and the plastic had trapped all these fluids. So I was moving the bed around, and it started stirring up these juices. And when I tip the bed over, not realizing what’s going on inside of it, this rushing torrent of maggot-filled liquid spews out all over the place—all over the carpet and all over my clothing…
“I vomited several times. My sister started gagging uncontrollably until she just couldn’t take it anymore. So she ran out the door, and jumped over the deck, right into the pool! That one still rates as the worst decomp we’ve ever done. And we knew so little about equipment, disposal techniques, the whole thing.”
However, Neal learned quickly and he parlayed that knowledge into a hugely successful business which has earned him a millionaire lifestyle complete with a mansion and very impressive yacht.
Part of Neal’s charm in this show is his absolute honesty and affability. He swears, he jokes but he also shows concern for the families who hire him and he offers a full clean up-to-grave service. We saw in last week’s show how he’d cleaned up the messy aftermath of someone’s death, then taken his family out on his yacht to scatter the man’s ashes. But of course, he does it all for a price, but hey, we’ve all got to earn a living.
And it’s not just deaths and crime scenes that Neal and his employees face. Again, in last week’s episode, we saw one of Crime Scene Cleaners Inc., operatives crawling around in the foundations of someone’s house in search of the source of a vile smell and finding a dead possum. He also drew the short straw and had to clean up a police car in which someone has been so violently sick, I wouldn’t be surprised if that person turned out to be possessed, Linda Blair in Exorcist style.
Neal is no newbie to being filmed as he goes about his gory business either. For many years, the fascination for what goes on behind those white tents and police tape lines has inspired filmmakers to shadow Neal. One hugely successful film was made by Alan Emmins and was entitled, ‘Mop Men’. It was graphic, it was gross, and it drew millions by way of audiences. Here’s a clip from that film, but be warned, it’s not for the faint hearted and definitely not for kids…
Neal has also been shadowed by National Geographic and Ashley Hames, who was filmed during a series of ‘grow up and get a job’ challenges. Here’s a clip, and again, it’s pretty grim so, as they say, viewer discretion is advised…
I suspect that, as I mentioned earlier, the true fascination with Neal’s latest TV venture on Bravo is that it’s a curtain-twitcher’s dream in which we get to see stuff that’s normally the subject of much curiosity but little actual first-hand knowledge.
It truly is morbidly fascinating, except, I would think, to anyone unfortunate enough to need Neal’s services.
You can see How Clean Is Your Crime Scene every Monday at 9pm on Bravo… and you’ll be hooked, I guarantee it!