“Love After Lockup” — a reality show about couples who’ve met through prison dating websites trying to make it after the prisoner has been released — premiered in early 2018, with little marketing behind it. But its ratings grew every week, propelling it to be the fastest-growing new reality show on cable last year. The unconventional idea for the show had come out of We TV’s 2016 “pitchfest,” an annual companywide event, during which all We staffers divide into teams to brainstorm ideas.
Its word-of-mouth success then inspired the summer 2019 spinoff “Life After Lockup,” which follows couples from the cast who are still together, or otherwise still connected (sometimes the connections are a bit toxic). “Life After Lockup’s” first season aired in between two halves of “Love After Lockup” Season 2. (The season finale for “Love After Lockup” airs this Friday.)
One show or the other has been on We TV for most of 2019, which is how its rabid fans — who go to Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit to discuss it — like it. “Very few shows have this level of engagement,” We TV’s president, Marc Juris, tells Variety. “This is actual organic interest in the show.”
Both “Love” and “Life” average more than a million viewers in Nielsen’s Live+3 ratings, half of whom are in We’s core demographic of women aged 25-to-54. In that demo, “Life” is the No. 2 show on We, and “Love” is No. 3. (“Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars” is ranked at the top.)
Additionally, on Friday nights in 2019, We TV has been the No. 1 cable network among African American women ages 25 to 54 on the strength of this franchise.
Juris says “Life After Lockup” was born not only out of an attempt to duplicate the ratings success of “Love After Lockup,” but from executives at We’s genuine desires to follow the lives of the cast. “Even here, we’re all so curious how their stories are evolving,” Juris says. “We have some happy couples, and then we have many troubled couples who are still trying to work through it.”
Industrial Media’s Sharp Entertainment — the makers TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé, another show that inspires obsession — produces both installments. As far as compensation goes, on “Love After Lockup,” the civilian half of the couple (or the “non-con,” to use the production term) gets a small amount of compensation; the ex-convicts are not paid. On “Life After Lockup,” both members of the couple are paid a small amount. A spokesperson for We TV wouldn’t reveal the actual dollar figures, but the salaries appear to be in the low-four figures per episode. A blowup over the summer between castmembers Scott and Lizzie revealed that he had promised her half of his $2,000 fee for each episode.
Season 2 of “Life After Lockup” will premiere in January. While Juris wouldn’t reveal all of the returning couples, he did say that it will include the popular Andrea and Lamar (she is a Mormon who desperately wants to return to Utah, he is a former bank robber from Los Angeles who hates Utah); Marcelino and Brittany as they continue to raise their baby in Las Vegas (“He’s such a control freak,” says Juris. “But they really love each other.”); and the woeful Clint and Tracie, who have stayed together despite her abandoning him the night of their wedding to do, as he put it to his mother in front of cameras, “motherf–king crack.” (Tracie may have stolen Clint’s rental car and his phone that night, but she still has his heart — a perusal of Tracie’s Instagram reveals they have stuck it out.)
The more couples are on “Love After Lockup,” the harder it’s going to be to select the cast of “Life After Lockup,” it would seem. For Juris, that would be a great problem to have: “From your lips, as they say.”
After a pause, he seems to realize it may not be an issue after all. “Well, what we see is it’s not that infrequent that some of them go back to jail,” Juris says.