Two Renegade Telemarketers Set Off On A 20-Year Gonzo Quest To Expose A Billion-Dollar Scam
From Executive Producers Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, And Danny McBride
- HBO Original three-part docuseries TELEMARKETERS, directed by Adam Bhala Lough and Sam Lipman-Stern and executive produced by Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, Dani Bernfeld, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, and Jody Hill, debuts SUNDAY, AUGUST 13 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PTon HBO and will be available to stream on Max, followed by episodes two and three airing subsequent Sundays at the same time.
- Synopsis: TELEMARKETERS chronicles the darkly comedic, unexpected 20-year journey of two unlikely office buddies, who stumble upon the murky truth behind the work they’ve been doing at a seedy New Jersey call center – persuading people to give money to charities – and vow to expose the crooked American telemarketing industry from within. As amateur sleuths looking to shine a light on the billion-dollar scam, with raucous insider access, raw eyewitness footage, and a comedic cast of call center characters, the film is a madcap story of an unruly, low-wage environment and two long-time office buddies who find themselves hot on the trail of a sobering look at the dark side of American capitalism and the misuse of consumer trust.
When Sam Lipman-Stern began a telemarketing job in New Jersey in the early 2000s as a 14-year-old high school drop-out, he believed he was raising money for police and firefighter charities, unaware that most of the money was ending up in the pockets of his crooked employers. With his video camera, Sam documents the riotous office as he and a motley mix of ex-cons, drug dealers and veteran telemarketers work the phone lines in an anarchic boiler room filled with booze, drugs, and debauchery, bound by humor and camaraderie. When the federal government shuts the company down after an investigation into its shady practices where they falsely told consumers that 100% of the money went to the charity (when in fact only 10-15% went), Sam and Pat Pespas, a larger-than-life top salesman struggling with addiction, begin to question the industry’s business practices. They realize they are unwitting cogs in a wheel perpetuating a massive scam on unsuspecting Americans. With rowdy humor and dogged enthusiasm, TELEMARKETERS follows Sam and Pat as they emerge from the bottom rung of the hourly workforce to become tenacious, self-appointed whistleblowers who make their way to the halls of the United States Senate, determined to expose an industry gone awry from the inside.
- Episode Descriptions:
Debut date: SUNDAY, AUGUST 13 (10:00 –10:59 p.m. ET/PT)
Sam Lipman-Stern, a 14-year-old high school dropout, joins Civic Development Group (“CDG”) in 2001 as a telemarketer raising money for various charities. What starts off as horseplay, filming the outrageous office antics, leads Sam and his colleague Pat Pespas (a legendary salesman at the office who is also struggling with addiction) to closely examine their dubious fundraising practices and the players behind this seemingly large-scale fraud.
Debut date: SUNDAY, AUGUST 20 (10:00 –10:54 p.m. ET/PT)
In the wake of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shutting down CDG in 2009, other copy-cat telemarketing companies pop up and evade regulation by taking advantage of loopholes. Undeterred, Sam and Pat continue down a wild and twisted path. Through industry sources and obsessive muckraking, they learn that the industry’s corrupt ways run much deeper than just CDG. Just as they are gaining ground in their investigation, Pat unexpectedly disappears bringing their mission to a screeching halt.
Debut date: SUNDAY, AUGUST 27 (10:00 –11:04 p.m. ET/PT)
Years later, Sam and Pat reunite in present day to continue their investigation only to learn that telemarketing schemes are now even more brazen and opportunistic with the advent of robocalling, political action committees (PACs), and new technologies such as AI. They travel across the country, gathering compelling evidence from a range of sources, and find themselves on Capitol Hill in a meeting with a US Senator to bring their findings to, but the solutions prove to be more elusive than they imagined.
- Credits: HBO Documentary Films presents TELEMARKETERS. A production of Elara Pictures and ALL FACTS in association with Rough House Pictures. Directed by Adam Bhala Lough, Sam Lipman-Stern; executive producers, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, Dani Bernfeld, David Gordon Green, Jody Hill, Danny McBride, Greg Stewart, Brandon James, Adam Bhala Lough, Sam Lipman-Stern; producer, Claire Read. For HBO: executive producers, Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller and Tina Nguyen.