Chop Shop Televison

by bj max
Look out for Motorcycles. They’re everywhere. That old bumper sticker has never been more true than it is today. When I started riding back in the early sixties there weren’t that many motorcycles around. But that’s all changed now and everybody and his Mother rides a motorcycle these days. And it’s not just the reckless and daring, either. For example, the Pastor and all the Deacons at the GarlandBaptistChurch created a stir recently after the whole bunch bought motorcycles and started their own gang. Most of the congregation accepted this odd behavior as a sign of the times but there were a few harboring issues after this break from tradition. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with it. In the days of Christ, a popular mode of transportation was a donkey and nobody thought anything about Jesus riding around on a donkey. By the same token, if He were to return today He might very well ride a motorcycle, another popular mode of transportation. Nothing flashy, mind you, but the thought of Jesus tooling around on a bummed out Yamaha Virago is not as far fetched as you might imagine.

Yep. There’s no doubt about it. Motorcycles are “ in”. More so now than ever in history I guess. Escalating gas prices may have something to do with it and the Harley-Davidson Marketing Department can take credit for a lot of the recent surge in the popularity of two wheeled machinery as well. But I think that more than anything else, it’s the celebrity bike builders and those ridiculous motorcycle reality shows that are responsible for most of this recent revolution. It seems everybody wants a stretch Harley with fins and a fire hydrant carburetor these days. And the Teutulheads on “American Chopper”, the Jerry Springer Show on Wheels if you will, started it all. In my opinion, the motorcycles they build are monstrosities. But I believe in giving credit where credit is due and when it comes to marketing, the Teutul’s are right up there with Colonel Parker and P.T. Barnum.

Up until the Discovery Channels’s production of “American Chopper”, I didn’t realize there was such a demand for sixty thousand dollar motorcycles. If you can believe the show, and I have a hard time doing that, the Teutulheads are backed right out the door with custom orders. I never dreamed you could make a living chopping bikes, but they seem to have a new project every week and it’s always destined for a show somewhere and if its not there on time, “Orange County Choppers” will go belly up for certain. The pressure is on and the bickering and arguing begins.

A build project might go something like this; After a few nano seconds of careful thought and planning, Paul Jr will rip the kitchen sink out of the wall, tack weld it to the rear fender of his latest creation, then have Justin what’s-his-name (the real craftsman of the bunch) slap a gazillion dollar paint job on it, order a set of custom wheels, a custom tank, call the whole thing the “Kitchen Sink Project”, and after a cuss fight or two and a couple of tool throwing tantrums, bingo, another hit episode. It’s really amazing when you stop and think about it.

And they’re always up against the clock. They’re backs are to the wall and if they don’t get the bike of the week finished by midnight, it will evidently turn into a pumpkin or back into the kitchen sink or something. The rush is on and profanity echos throughout the shop as the pressure builds and the dialog becomes nothing short of brilliant.

“Paulie, if you don’t get that bleeping bike finished by bleeping sundown, I’m gonna’ rip out your bleepitty bleep bleep bleep you sorry good for nothing bleeping little bleeper.”

Then Paulie might say, “Oh yeah, well up yours, too.”

Talk about your disfunctional family. But, according to my #2 son and a lot of my friends, that’s the kind of stuff that makes the Teutulheads so loveable. Loveable? These guys are about as loveable as a pit bull with a hangover.

As I mentioned, the project bike always has to be at a show by tomorrow at four or else..Or else what? I’ve often wondered what terrible things might be in store for the Teutul’s if they miss a deadline..If the bike were being built for a Mafia hit man then I might understand the pressure they’re under, but if it’s being built for a plumbers convention in Sheboygan then what’s the big deal? Is it really that important? Maybe if they quit fighting long enough, they might get the bike built with time to spare for a change. But at least the “American Chopper” crew, unlike some shows, abuse only themselves.

I hate to admit it but I’ve sort of grown fond of the Teutul’s. They’re almost like my neighbors across the street. But there’s one show out there now that I absolutely cannot stand. It’s called “Build or Bust” and is hosted by this smart mouth British weenie with a bad haircut. The premise of the show is that if you, an ordinary street bum, can build a motorcycle by yourself, you can keep it. Naturally, they pick someone with no skill what so ever and turn them loose. And, to make the show “entertaining”, while the poor slob slaves away on his dream machine, Blondie and the staff continually berate and ridicule his every move and badger him unmercifully.

Then, after a few days, they suddenly realize the kid is hopelessly inept (that’s why they picked him in the first place) so, being the nice guys they are, they bring in an expert..Excuse me. I thought they were the experts. When this so-called expert arrives, he takes one look at the bike and busts out laughing. Blondie and the staff join in. It’s their little private joke, see, and now instead of three smart-mouths belittling the poor guy, there’s four…

Later, while the victim slaves over the oil tank fabrication, out walks Blondie who throws a hub, rim and a handful of spokes on the table and tells the guy he needs to get busy lacing the rear wheel if he expects to finish this project on time….Now lacing a wheel takes some expertise, good people and even old hands sometime get flustered, so why are they dumping this kinda’ job on an inexperienced greenhorn? For entertainment, what else? And there’s the rub. There’s no better way to get TV ratings these days than have several guys stand around beating up on some poor dumb @#% with a dream. Just good clean wholesome fun, huh? But hold up a minute. I’ve never seen Blondie lace a wheel. He always sits down and scratches out some kind of weird crystal meth derived design on a piece of paper, hands it to his toady and tells him to run it over to the local CNC shop and a computer cranks out his wheels…Heck. I could do that….

The kid, finally finishes the bike, and to be honest with you, it is a piece of junk. And, to make matters worse, the poor guy didn’t meet the deadline. But hold on. Blondie, to prove he’s not really a jerk and that this was all in fun, makes a big deal out of presenting the greenhorn with the keys, despite his monumental stupidity…What a lovely guy. Made me sick and I haven’t watched that piece of garbage since.

There’s something inherently wrong when someone else’s misery is turned into entertainment for the masses. The difference in Discovery’s “American Chopper” and Speed Channels’s “Build or Bust” is that the Teutul’s abuse each other in a scripted show whereas Build or Bust actually humiliates a fellow motorcyclist for fun, entertainment and most of all, profit. Disgusting.

I actually enjoy “American Chopper”. Why? Motorcycles, of course, but the show also has drama and pathos with a little humor mixed in. The Teutul’s were doing a show at one of the casino’s in Tunica recently and someone in the audience asked if they really fought all the time like their show depicted. They replied that if they did they wouldn’t ever get anything done. “American Chopper” is pure showbiz and once you realize that, it’s fun to watch.

I also enjoy the rare TV Specials that feature Jesse James. I don’t particular like Jesse’s lifestyle but I do admire his handiwork. Unlike the Teutul’s who use tons of custom-built parts, Jesse takes a pile of raw steel and hammers out fantastic motorcycles. Very entertaining from a gearhead’s point of view. But “American Choppe”r and the Jesse James specials are hits because they highlight creative thought, whereas the “Build or Bust” show is scripted especially to ridicule and deride another human being for sport and it’s depressing. But this seems to be a trend in the entertainment business these days. Seems every show has a nerd or geek that the rest of the cast dumps on. I’m uncomfortable with this. After all, the Romans ridiculed and humiliated the Christians for entertainment and look what happened to them….

Ya’ll think about it

M.M.M.

 

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