Reality TV show Parking Wars lasted for seven seasons and over 100 episodes on the A&E network from 2008 until it was canceled in 2012. The show followed the men and women who work for the Philadelphia Parking Authority as they clamp down on bad parking in the city, and chase up Philadelphians who have accrued parking fines but not paid them off.
The PPA team would often have to boot the cars of people who had a lot of outstanding fines, only releasing the vehicle when the debt was paid, and in serious cases, the vehicle could even be seized and auctioned off to pay for the fine.
Parking Wars made stars of the ordinary men and women of the PPA, and it later expanded to Detroit, Providence, Trenton in New Jersey and Staten Island and North Hempstead in New York. Fans of Parking Wars will no doubt remember Steve Garfield and his partner Sherry who were the bane of motorists’ lives in Philadelphia, and who appeared on the show right from the beginning.
As with most reality TV shows, however, what you saw on screen wasn’t necessarily the whole story, with directors editing the encounters they filmed to make the whole process more entertaining for viewers at home. Check out this list of 15 behind the scenes secrets that A&E didn’t tell us about Parking Wars.
15 Only Supposed To Be A One-Off Documentary
When a network executive first had the bright idea of following the staff from the Philadelphia Parking Authority as they went about their work, it didn’t seem as though there would be enough material to make a full series of such a show, and so the very first Parking Wars was only ever supposed to be a one-off documentary.
However, the 2001 film was so popular that A&E realized they had a potential hit on their hands, and went onto commission a full series of the TV show. It just shows that even the most successful series can have a less than auspicious broadcasting history!
14 Original Film Was Re-Released As A "Lost Episode"
Once Parking Wars was up and running as a full TV series, A&E retitled the original film as “The Lost Pilot” which is a little disingenuous, as it was neither lost nor a pilot! Still, the enticing title was enough to draw in Parking Wars fans, who thought they had missed out on the pilot show the first time, and who got the chance to see how their PPA favorites performed when they first were on screen.
It seems that the network was trying to rewrite history, by suggesting that they had intended to commission a full series of the show all along, which simply wasn’t the case.
13 PPA Employee Martin Passed Away Before The First Series Aired
One of the most popular figures in the first series proper of Parking Wars was Philadelphia Parking Authority employee, Martin Anderson. Anderson was the happy-go-lucky driver of one of the PPA’s many tow trucks, and he appeared in the first and fifth episodes of season one.
However, many fans didn’t know that Martin had actually passed away suddenly before he saw any of his episodes broadcast on TV. Although there was no mention of his tragic passing in the credits of the Parking Wars episodes in which he appeared, A&E did post a tribute to their reality star on their website.
12 Allegations That Some Of The Confrontations Were Scripted
As with a lot of so-called reality TV shows, there have been plenty of allegations that producers would sometimes script some of the more outlandish moments, or even set up confrontations with the Philadelphia Parking Authority employees in the name of entertainment.
While there is little doubt that the episodes were edited to make them more exciting there is no evidence that A&E actually set up any of the incidents on screen – and given how many people get parking tickets in Philadelphia and the other cities on the show, there was certainly no need to manufacture any incidents for the cameras!
11 A&E Ditched The Idea Of A Narrator For The Series
Seven years passed between that first Parking Wars documentary film and the first episode of the TV series by the same name, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the makers of the show would choose to make a few changes.
The most obvious change between “The Lost Pilot” and the rest of the Parking Wars series is that the original film had a narrator, Daniel Jenkins, who explained a lot of the background information, while in the TV series, this was job was left to the staff of the Philadelphia Parking Authority themselves, boosting their parts and making the show feel more inclusive.
10 More Cities Were Added As Ratings Started To Fall
The first five seasons of Parking Wars were filmed entirely on location in Philadelphia and concentrated very much on the same small group of PPA employees. However, variety is the spice of life, and the makers of the show realized they needed to change things up a bit. For season six, they introduced the parking enforcers of Detroit, Michigan, and eventually, Philadelphia was dropped altogether in season seven, in favor of new cities Providence, Rhode Island, Trenton, New Jersey, and Staten Island and North Hempstead in New York.
Low ratings weren’t the only reason that Philadelphia was replaced, but they certainly didn’t help the city’s case.
9 Parking Wars Series Also Dropped Aspects Featured In Original Film
Dropping narrator Daniel Jenkins wasn’t the only change that the A&E network decided to make between “The Lost Pilot” in 2001 and the series proper in 2008. The first film had followed the Philadelphia Parking Authority through the whole process, from issuing tickets to collecting fines, and from putting boots on vehicles without outstanding fines to towing cars whose owners had racked up significant debts.
It also included occasions when PPA staff had to seize vehicles, which were then auctioned off to pay for the fines, a part of the process which was dropped when it came to the Parking Wars TV series, in favor of more on-street confrontations.
8 Clarence On PPA Tow Squad Once Had His Own Car Towed!
Clarence Nichols was one of the Philadelphia Parking Authority enforcers who had been on Parking Wars from the start of the series, driving one of the tow trucks which patrolled the city, picking up illegally-parked vehicles, or those whose owners owed thousands in unpaid parking fine.
Considering that he had worked for the PPA for many years, you would have thought that Nichols would have a perfect parking record; however, he had actually once had his own car towed away by the PPA. At least he had a good excuse – he had lent the vehicle to his sister for a few days!
7 Series Affected Tourism In Philadelphia
While dwindling ratings were partly responsible for the decision to introduce new cities into the show, and to eventually drop Philadelphia from Parking Wars altogether, it was far from the only reason.
Philadelphians, including prominent citizens, became upset with the way the A&E network was portraying the city, and the local tourist board received dozens of letters and emails from viewers who said that they were never going to visit the city because of the way the Philadelphia Parking Authority dealt with parking infringements, including from visitors to the city who often found the local parking rules difficult to understand.
6 PPA Was Criticised For Getting Involved In The Show
Given that bad press that Parking Wars generated within Philadelphia, it was inevitable that the Philadelphia Parking Authority was going to come in for criticism for agreeing to take part in the TV series in the first place. After all, the PPA is a government agency, and they have a responsibility not only to treat the members of the public with respect but also to represent the city when it comes to visitors and tourists.
Getting involved in street confrontations with motorists might make for good TV, but it isn’t the sort of behavior that the public has come to expect from government employees.
5 The Mayor And Governor Refused To Watch The Series
And it wasn’t just the local tourist board in Philadelphia that was getting hate mail as a result of the Parking Wars TV series. Even the city’s Mayor and the Governor of Pennsylvania were called upon to take action to get the show taken off TV – although they admitted that they were powerless to force the A&E network to ditch the series or even to change how the PPA and the city were portrayed in the show.
Instead, their advice to anyone who found Parking Wars offensive was to switch it off, with both saying that they didn’t watch the series themselves!
4 Vinny Once Got Into A Row With A Priest Over A Parking Ticket
Season six saw Parking Wars increase its geographical reach, and parking enforcers from North Hempstead, a suburb of New York just east of Queen’s, made their debut in February 2012. Vinny was one of the North Hempstead team who was known for his fiery temper, which of course made for great TV.
However, even Vinny admitted that he often let his temper get the better of him and that he once got into an argument with a priest when he was trying to give the religious man’s car a parking ticket. Sadly, this outrageous incident wasn’t caught by the Parking Wars camera crew.
3 Some Offenders Owe Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars
Viewers don’t always get the full story behind the incidents featured on episodes of Parking Wars, and they would probably be a lot more sympathetic to the PPA staff and parking enforcers from other cities if they knew all the facts. Towing someone’s car away or outing a boot on a vehicle may seem a bit over-the-top for unpaid parking tickets, but the truth is that many of the worst offenders owe the city hundreds or even thousands of dollars in parking fines, which accrue interest if they continue to go unpaid.
That is why the city can also seize and auction vehicles if the debt is serious enough.
2 Jeff Admits He Uses His Job To Meet Girls
Jeff Widman is another of the Philadelphia Parking Authority workers who were involved with Parking Wars from the very beginning, and was definitely a bit of eye candy for the female viewers! However, Jeff also had a bit of a roving eye, and admitted that he enjoyed his job because it allowed him to meet a lot of women – a comment that probably would be frowned upon by the A&E network in today’s era of #MeToo!
Jeff wasn’t always happy with female attention, though, as he once confessed that his strangest moment working for the PPA was when a certain woman made a pass at him…
1 Lots Of Bad Language - But A&E Cuts Most Of It Out!
It won’t surprise anyone to learn that the Parking Wars camera crew caught a lot of bad language while they were filming; after all, many of the confrontations between motorists and PPA workers turned pretty heated, pretty quickly.
However, the show was broadcast early enough in the evening that any swear words had to be either cut from the show completely, to sanitize the whole argument, or if the producers could get away with it, they would just bleep out the bad words, and leave the rest of the row as it was. Otherwise, Parking Wars would definitely have needed an “R” rating!
Sources - Reality TV World, NY Times, Philly, CNN