By now most of you have probably seen one of the dozen or so automotive shows on television. Fact is, by the time you read this editorial there will undoubtedly be more. These shows are found on local cable channels and deal with everything automotive (and motorcycle) that the resident hot rod gearhead could possibly want. Or do they?
For starters, the value of these shows varies from the well-done professional effort to the "no wonder television is referred to as the vast wasteland" failed attempt. But let's dig ourselves out of the muck for a moment.
Cable television's automotive shows cover everything from hard-core "how-to" articles to historical presentations. The hard-core show attempts to impart some level of mechanical knowledge, which they do, but my opinion is that these attempts are a bit sophomoric. The problems with these how-to shows as I see them are: (1) Not enough is shown on how to actually perform the operation, (2) There is little to no discussion on any tips that might make the job easier, faster, or safer, and (3) They don't show the payoff. Why would any of us want to do what is being shown? Give us the payoff with before and after views of the car's appearance, handling, braking, and/or acceleration. Whatever, just tell us something.
This could be likened to what we are doing at Street Rodder as we show Track Day results of various street rods made up of the myriad components that are out there for us to use. We want to actually show the payoff.
Something else I have noticed about some, but not all, of these shows is that they often fail to identify the manufacturers (and part numbers) of the products they use, as well as fall a smidgen short when explaining how to properly install and adjust certain parts. There is too much beginning and end and not enough about the journey in between.
However, on the other hand, I have found the historical presentations to be very good. In fact, these shows are both informative and entertaining, achieving high marks. I admit I am particularly fond of the historical pieces on early sports cars, American musclecars, and vintage racing. Candidly, though, I must confess that the efforts to date on street rodding have missed the mark. This could be a simple case of "I am too close to the forest to see the trees" syndrome, but I am willing to take my chances and just say, "the quality of rodding shows has a long way to go."
Of course, if I think I can do it better maybe I should have my own show? Can you image the Street Rodder staff on television? If you think we are unbearable now, wait until you see us after a bit of stage presence! (And we might just get our chance, as Tech Editor Ron Ceridono found himself engulfed for better or worse in one such show recently.) Truthfully, I think we could do a good show.
All of us have a full-time job right now at SRM, but if there is a producer out there who wants a topflight show, give us a call, we have some great ideas. The other aspect of the automotive cable show has little to do with cars (or motorcycles), but more to do with the daily saga of a "soap opera." I find these shows particularly "ugly," with one exception. I am hooked on American Chopper. I like Paul Sr. He reminds me of some of my resident East Coast "hardass" friends. In reality, though, he, and they, are all really good guys. (He may have a bit of Italian in him, which would explain a lot.) His sons on the show constantly bear the brunt of Senior's wrath. Paul Jr. makes it happen while other brother Mikey comes off as, well, the "other" brother, and I will leave it at that! (Editor's Note: It appears Mikey has fans too, as I have seen a spin-off show or two featuring him.) My affection (or affliction) for the show must come from my pre-SRM days when I worked on Street Chopper in the early '70s. All those Harley Panheads, open primaries, jockey shift, and Tilitson carburetors have left a forever soft spot in my heart for choppers. However, give me an electric starter any day and keep the "kicker." Oh well.
Back to the wasteland at hand: The sad part of the soap opera approach is that some well-known names in our industry have lent themselves to these shows and in my humble opinion their businesses come off less than professional. Let's face it, do you want to spend wallets of cash with a shop that can't get the most mundane building topics correct the first time? I think not.
Rodders who have been involved for more than a fortnight understand the difference between television entertainment and the real world of building cars. Hopefully the shops that play for the entertainment value can draw a line for their potential customers. At least that's my story and I am sticking to it. It appears for the present these shows are enjoying favorable ratings with more shows and better ratings on the horizon.
I will be the first to admit that street rodding is, or is about to, become accepted into the social mainstream given the audiences that are currently exposed through "cablevision." For this I should be grateful. The more people that are exposed to rodding the better the chance our ranks will swell. That's a good thing. Odds are, some of those people will find SRM and start reading. Hopefully then we can straighten them out as to what's really going on in the world of rodding. And that too is a good thing. Did I hear someone yell, "Makeup!"