In the world of show business, there’s a thing known as conviction, which is selling the scene or conveying the emotions an actor is trying to get across as if they are truly living a life as the audience is watching it unfold up there on the screen.
This is what most people look for when watching film or TV and the performers that truly have it are usually the ones that have the most success…usually. Well, at the turn of the 21st century, there was an influx of reality-based television shows and with them came a bunch of shows featuring regular people performing their day to day duties—sometimes, though, the reality show was a competition of sorts, like Survivor or The Apprentice.
But what happened was actually pretty remarkable, in that on some of those shows, a few of those “real people” were actually quite entertaining, believable, and they even had conviction, of all things! Some of these reality stars actually became superstars and to their credit, they deserved their success. After all, they were able to attain what performers look for all their careers: credibility.
But, unfortunately, with the few that actually came across as real-life people, there were indeed many that just couldn’t cut the mustard, so to speak; their performances so dry and rehearsed, the entire show was rendered a showing of bad acting and, well, non-conviction. Something like this was apt to leave a bad taste in the collective mouths of viewers.
Join us as we take a look at some of the car TV shows that deliver on all facets, rendering them shows that gearheads can truly enjoy. We will also take a look at the opposite side of that spectrum, the shows that are so bad that they seem downright fake.
Well, Danny Koker and crew sure aren't strangers to causing a stir. No doubt, they have a flair for entertaining. The trouble is, most times, as the show unfolds, it's rather evident that most of the scenes were rehearsed and staged. Many reality-based shows are, in fact, staged, and this one is no exception. And as we see this, it kind of takes away from the show as a whole. As gearheads, we want to see the real side of the automotive industry and could care less about overly dramatized scenes and, besides, the show's mechanics—including Koker himself—have actually made many mistakes regarding mechanics, and on camera!
Probably one of the most respected car shows ever to be filmed and aired on television, this show is perfect for gearheads of any sort. It's a straight-up show that doesn't overly dramatize anything. It's raw, concise, and to the point and gives us what we want, which is information about the things we love: cars. After all, isn't that what it's all about? At the same time, the show is well produced and has had a very long run, having premiered in the UK in 2002—and that was a reboot of a show that originally aired on TV back in 1977. And hey, another positive is that a frequent presenter is Matt LeBlanc, and that's Joey from Friends. Who doesn't like Joey?
The plotline for these car shows is often very similar from one to the next. It just seems that there are some shows that do it better than others and this show was a perfect example of a show that did it rather badly, we're afraid. It only ran for two consecutive seasons, so most people caught wind of what we anticipated rather quickly and that was the major reason for the show's ultimate demise. Essentially, there were others that produced a better quality show at the time and Barry White, the show's main star, just wasn't enough of a star to carry the show further.
Jay Leno hosted The Tonight Show for many years and did so expertly. His knack for comedy was rather impressive and he proved it time and time again. With perfect timing and a great demeanor, he entertained audiences for decades. But he was always known to have another love close to his heart outside of comedy, and that was cars, cars, and did we mention cars? No one loves a powerful and smooth ride better than this man right here, and on his latest project, Jay Leno's Garage, he often showcases some of the most sought after vehicles known to man. He even drove The Tumbler—the batmobile from Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy.
If a show is taking time away from shooting cars, which is the whole purpose of a reality show based on cars, then we as viewers need to collectively ask, "What are we watching, exactly?" At the end of the day, gearheads want to learn more about their favorite subject and could care less about what the hosts look like in designer clothes and pounds and pounds of applied make-up. Besides, if you want a real female mechanic, a woman who can give some of the boys on this list a run for their money, let me introduce you to Bogi Lateiner of All Girl's Garage. Now, she and her team can definitely work on cars and they don't care how much grease gets under their fingernails.
Here's a perfect example of what can happen when you put a bunch of guys in a room intent on getting the job done at all costs. This show exploded onto the scene at the turn of the millennium, and yes, although viewers tuned in most times to see if and when Paul Sr. would blow up at one of his sons, it was a show that a true gearhead could appreciate. Not only were there mechanics and fabrication involved, but the arguments that erupted on camera were real and based on real relationships that fractured and even broke during the show's long run. The family has since worked things out and are doing better and thankfully so.
Here's a show on this list that just screams, "Hollywood Production!" And it screams it loud and proud. If you were to look at the backstory of how this show came to be, anyone would deduce that it's staged and as fake as fake can get. A few of the mechanics on this show were once on Gas Monkey Garage and when they were publicly fired from that show, they started a whole new garage and subsequently this show, Misfit Garage. But there is controversy, as many believe that the firings were a plot device used to free up these "cast members" for a new show. As far as we're concerned, they lost all credibility with that move.
This show has come under fire a lot over the years, many believing it to be the most overly produced show about cars ever to be aired, and well, we'd have to agree. But the reason that it's ended up on the positive side of our list lies within that critique in and of itself. Sometimes, shows like this need to be over-produced, and a little bit of Hollywood magic sure goes a long way. And that's not to mention a really cool host who has other interests, like, say, making epic music. Xzibit's star quality brought to this show a believable side and authenticity; let's face it, the modifications we witnessed on this show were truly amazing. Don't scoff! You know you liked it!
First off, the camera work on this show was awesome. Really great shots, not only of the amazing vehicles but also of the surroundings and landscape. The show was a true testament to digital camera work. So, why is the show on the negative side of our list here today? We're glad you asked, and you should see a common theme that has surfaced in this article show up here too. Essentially, the show's weaknesses lie in its strengths, as the show is too overly produced and we feel that the builds should have been left to speak for themselves rather than how they are displayed and projected so ostentatiously. Sometimes the minimalist approach is better.
This show is considered as more of a documentary. Essentially, it plays out like one, and the authenticity we seek comes through from frame to frame. The host, Wayne Carini, does his job like a seasoned veteran and the search for these rare cars is enthralling to watch. The plot is similar to other shows, where the goal is to restore old cars and make a profit on them, but a profit is not always garnered, no matter how hard the modifications were, and therein lies the reality factor we don't always get with other shows. And furthermore, the vehicles on this show are often very rare and that's always a bonus for gearheads everywhere.
For us, this show is pretty much a revamp of car shows of the past. As gearheads, we like to watch shows that challenge us and teach us new techniques or even inspire us to rework our own cars that have been sitting at the back of our garage. But here, the tired old system is polished up for a newer and younger audience: celebrities come to have their cars remodeled and it calls to mind the veneer of Hollywood a little too much for our tastes. Questions arise in our minds like why these celebrities decided to go to Ryan Friedlinghaus and his team and not any of the other more qualified mechanics out there in Burbank, California?
Here was an original thought if ever there was one. Just think: if fifteen years ago, we would have pitched an idea about a comedian getting in cars with his peers and interviewing them, you would have laughed us out of your office. But what a difference a change in generations can make, eh? As it turns out, this show, featuring Jerry Seinfeld riding around in classic or high performing cars, is actually a fine treat for gearheads anywhere, as there are great shots of the vehicles and great conversations and epic laughs ensue. We recommend this one to gearheads and fans of talk shows alike.Besides, it's always great to see Jerry on screen, no matter the setting.
A picture's worth a thousand words. But take a look at this still of Dallas Car Sharks personality, Tommy Spagnola, (even his name sounds fake, like something out of a Martin Scorsese film), and you can pretty much deduce the point we're trying to make with this show. Pay close attention to the shades and attitude. What does it all tell you? Doesn't it all seem a tad rehearsed to you? Well, it does to us, and that's why this show ends up on the negative side of our list. That rehearsed feeling we get from this show takes away from all the automotive information, and the fact that it airs on Motor Trend doesn't do a bit to help it.
Like the Orange County Choppers company featured on American Chopper, Monster Garage and its, star Jesse James, are some of the original heavyweights in the industry. His no-frills attitude and approach to putting on a show like this are what garnered him a spot on our list. Much respect goes out to him, for his builds and what he's been able to accomplish as a mechanic and TV personality. Sure, he's had a few bad days in the press but they shouldn't discredit what he's done as a mechanic and the fact that at the end of the day, Monster Garage was, and still remains, a positive look at the automotive industry.
We here absolutely love big rig trucks as much as the next guy, if not more. Especially big rigs trucks that are mechanically and aesthetically superior than the run of the mill sort we see every day hauling lumber, McDonald's french fries, and crates of paper from the mill. But although this show definitely had the right idea in terms of originality, we've got to call, "Counterfeit," on this one. Sorry folks, but this one too falls in that category of a total lack of conviction. The scenes that play out in front of the camera aren't even worthy of an after-school special from the early-90s. The only thing missing is the cheesy music, if that.
What's better than straight-up news on the automotive industry with professional journalists doing what they do best? This show, which is the longest-running on TV, plays out like a 60 Minutes for automotive enthusiasts, bringing the viewer all the up-to-date news and information on some rare cars and even the "normal" cars most of us drive every day. Like most trustworthy automotive magazines and TV shows, this particular show brings to your doorstep what you want to know with as little frills as possible. It has been running for a whopping 38 seasons on PBS. It aired first in 1981 and is considered the West's response to Top Gear.
American Hot Rod ran from 2004 to 2008. Many considered it to be a response to American Chopper, which also ran on the Discovery Channel. But when the two shows were juxtaposed, then and even now, American Hot Rod pales in comparison to American Chopper. Now many may feel we're comparing apples and oranges, no pun intended—Orange County Choppers...never mind—as the two shows operated on two very different products, but where this show fell short is that it always seemed to be playing copycat, even to the temperamental blowouts performed by the star, Boyd Coddington. And believe us, the blowouts featured on camera were, in fact, rehearsed performances and not at all genuine arguments.
Now, this one is an exception to our rule of not including scripted reality shows, as the show's episodes are often scripted. But what we like here is that this isn't hidden from the viewer. They are not pretending that they aren't scripted and it's this transparency that we appreciate here. And it's in the scripted scenes that unfold that the "characters" actually show a decent amount of conviction and even a decent amount of credibility, so that it doesn't take away from the subject at hand. They showcase some excellent vehicles and the camera work live up to the hype, as well. This one's apparently got it all and is worth the time.
Despite having some pretty cool guests on the show in its short time on air, this show just completely missed the mark for viewers and critics everywhere. It had a cool concept, as many have likened it to the Food Network's Iron Chef, in which competing chefs are given an hour to create five dishes and go head-to-head with the judges sampling their food. Here, the concept was, in fact, similar—only the subject at hand was mechanics. Of course, the mechanics here had over an hour, 72 of them to be exact, to restore a particular car. But the show didn't exactly deliver, leaving audiences wanting more. When a time constraint is added, the end result is always less than what it could have been.
Many would consider this reality show not really designated particularly for gearheads and we would more than understand that sentiment. But we urge the reader to look back on some of the rare automotive finds these dudes have made over the seasons. These finds are enough to get any automotive enthusiast cheering in disbelief and watching in wonder. Case in point: two very rare 1954 Nash Healys, a 1935 Auburn Phaeton 653, a 1914 Merz Cycle car, a 1910 Royal Pioneer Motorcycle valued at $55,000, and an incredible amount of Harleys, Indians, and other vehicular accessories, like vintage leather license plates and rare signs.
Sources: Wikipedia, IMDb, and Motor Trend.