Silly Season Telly: Inside West Coast Customs

I was tuned into INSIDE WEST COAST CUSTOMS last week because I have lost my remote control and therefore can only receive 7MATE on the Panasonic Viera.  For those not acquainted with Australian television, 7Mate is one of the free-to-air channels aimed specifically at men. I watch it quite a bit, especially those History channel shows like AMERICAN RESTORATION, PAWN STARS and AMERICAN PICKERS, but I tend to stay away from shows involving toothless swamp dwellers or excessive modding of internal combustion engines.

My previous knowledge of West Coast Customs was based on their participation in MTV’s PIMP MY RIDE. Over four glorious seasons (2005-2008) West Coast Customs was the Californian car remodelling business vouchsafed with the task of ride pimping. In practice this meant some young student or minimum wage worker offered up their decrepit vehicle for a makeover. Some poor shmo whose Ford Focus was held together with epoxy and duct tape would be selected to have the West Coast guys completely renovate the body of their automobile with new panels, a new paint job, inappropriate gizmos like juicers, Stairmasters etc and an inordinate number of plasma screens.  (Click here for a Reddit AMA from Justin explaining the pimping of his 1997 Toyota Rav4)

The West Coast workers were more Latino or African American than the Tea Party’s dream for America and perhaps this diversity helped them to became minor celebrities. Q the foreman, Big Dane, Ish and Mad Mike were among those called upon not only to do the pimpin' but also to painfully ‘act’ out gags and be auto mechanic cut-ups keeping things hilarious.

Anyhow, the producers of PIMP MY RIDE made the disastrous decision to go with the Galpin Auto Sports (GAS) for its fifth and sixth seasons. Suddenly a show about slickly remodelling young people’s cars seemed empty and soulless.  And much like those WEST WING fans who choose to watch only the first four Sorkin seasons, I can only subject myself to the West Coast Customised seasons of PIMP MY RIDE.

So there was an interlude where I wasn't in contact with the goings on at West Coast Customs, but in the mean whilst, CEO Ryan Friedlinghaus, the man behind the business, had built the brand into an international franchised phenom' (according to the Wikipedia). I needed to know more, and now we lucky Aussies who enjoy free-to-air televison, can discover how West Coast's transformation was wrought, by tuning into the new show.

Some sad news in advance guys, the series is already done. It began in 2010 and ran until 2013. The episode I watched was from the first season and was entitled Not Your Grandparents RV. The bus sized RV in question was owned by Spy Optics and they wanted their vehicle to be upgraded to be more in line with the awesomeness that their eyewear brand suggests.  

We got to see a lot of chatting in a boardroom. The Spy folks seemed to be hip suit wearers, whereas the West Coast guys were middle-aged men keeping alive the memory of 90s skate punk. But surely California exists so that guys in their 40s can wear big shorts and brand name sneakers to a business meeting IF THEY WANT TO. The chat focussed on many quite boring details about branding the RV, but there was also talk of some West Coast/Spy shades that might ship with a Sharpie and be “customisable”.  Put me down for a pair.

In the end, this summit meeting of off-the-wall thinkers came up with the truly out there notion of dividing the RV into two sections. The outer section behind the driver, was to be a lounge in which snow boarders, surfers, skaters and other extreme sports champions wearing sponsored merch, would kick back. Giant screens and X-boxes were also to be installed so the extreme athletes could chill to the max.  The smaller section of the RV was to be shut away behind a polycast door made to resemble a bank safe. Behind the door it was planned to construct an all-white section displaying Spy ware. (No one made a joke about the irony of the all-white section being at the back of the bus.)

Whoa. Yeah. Just stop and dig the scene. I mean you can see it, right? The world has been crying out for a space where extreme athletes can relax on a couch, do some low-pressure gaming, slam down energy drinks and then go into a special room where they can fondle their sponsor’s swag. Cool as this concept is, Spy Optics wanted to take this enviable lifestyle and flaunt slash show it off,  so that we, the people could aspire to a branded existence of leisurely relaxation. Spy Optics decided that ordinary people, life-stained, not extreme, unawesome, non-champions like you and me, should get a chance to see these winning dudes, sitting in the RV like magnificent tigers or jaguars resting in a zoo habitat, playing GTA V.

Sadly, in commercial TV time this all took an hour to unfold. This is way too long for this type of reality show. The point of reality sculptings like PIMP MY RIDE or AMERICAN RESTORATION is to skim over the technical issues of remodelling, repair and fabrication. The point is for the audience to watch other people working hard but to have that labour montaged into an easily digestible 22 minute show interspersed with a light storyline in which the workers pretend to hit project obstacles or have emotional difficulties. 

Sure, the West Coast guys meeting the Spy Optics people was a phoney sequence, but it Wasn’t Phoney Enough. They were nice to each other, people smiled, there was general agreement about concept sketches for the RV.  What we on the other side of the screen crave is heated disagreement, car panels being thrown and exasperated eyerolls shot hither and yon. We need to see CEO Ryan laying down the law to workers who are goofing off. In short, we need the drama of conflict. Even if that's the make-believe conflict of reality television.

In conclusion, the program is mildly diverting despite my quibbles. I'd watch it over HARDCORE PAWN or CANADIAN PICKERS (aka CASH COWBOYS). What INSIDE WEST COAST CUSTOMS really needs is a good buff and polish of its storylines. I give it 2.5/5