For the third time, reality television has found North Georgia to be a source of interesting subject material. Viewers will see why when "Small Town Security" debuts tonight at 11 on the AMC Network.
Reality TV first taped in this area when "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" came to Rossville. In that episode, the Sharrock family was gifted with a new home to help their young son cope with brittle-bone disease. Then "American Idol" accompanied contestant Lauren Alaina to Fort Oglethorpe when she made a hometown visit.
Over the past year, a crew from "Small Town Security" has followed the daily routines of JJK Security & Investigations, a Ringgold, Ga., business owned by Joan Koplan since 1984.
Koplan, 61, said her security company employs about 67 people. JJK handles jobs such as providing bodyguards, serving papers, guarding businesses, patrolling car dealerships, guarding buildings under construction and handling private investigations. The AMC crew taped in the office and on ride-alongs, she said.
"But the show is mainly about the office dynamics, the craziness that goes on in the office, the big secrets," Koplan said. "We fight like cats and dogs, but we still love each other."
The eight-episode series will launch with a big surprise, she teased.
"There's something shocking in the first episode that comes out," Koplan said.
In addition to Joan Koplan, the cast includes her husband, Irwin Koplan, who is a hoarder; Dennis "The Lieutenant" Croft, operations manager who wants to transform JJK employees into an elite force; Brian Taylor, office manager; and Christa Stephens, the spelling-challenged secretary and licensed cosmetologist.
Koplan said it has taken about two years for "Small Town Security" to evolve from pitch to production to tonight's debut. She credits her lifelong friend Matthew Saul, with the William Morris Agency, for making it happen when he showed her homemade DVD to AMC.
At a network known for its story-propelled dramas ("Mad Men," "Breaking Bad"), "Small Town Security" is the newest of just three unscripted AMC programs. The new comedy has the good fortune of having "Breaking Bad" as its lead-in.
"'Breaking Bad' is a great opening for a show, especially for a premiere show," said Kate Mann, of AMC Public Relations.
"It's the audience we're looking for. The 11 o'clock time slot just seemed to be a perfect fit," she said.
The late-night time slot also accommodates the cast's frequent use of profanity, sexual innuendo and scatological references.
Whether the show is a ratings success or not, Koplan said she plans to continue running JJK and living in Ringgold.
"I can't see it flopping. It's great the way they portray us because it's us. There is no acting. I'm putting Ringgold on the map and saying a lot of good things about Ringgold."
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...