April 6, 2005

Pimp My Ride

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Congratulations to MTV’s marketing department for meeting all my expectations in Pimp My Ride: The Complete First Season (3-DVD set, $29.99). Unfortunately, I expected a gaudy me-too hack of a reality makeover show. The show features rapper-cum-host Xzibit, whose Detroit roots belie his appreciation for automobiles ( especially cars that connote wealth and virility); and West Coast Customs, who provide professional services to celebrities w/r/t/ pimping and rides.

Each show stars a L.A. resident (the “recipient”) in the 18-25 demographic with a really shitty car. MTV then spends twenty to thirty thousand dollars rebuilding and customizing, nay, pimping the car. For the vernacularly-challenged, this means custom tires, custom paint and decals, usually a PlayStation in the backseat and some sort of accent piece that evokes the uniqueness of the recipient: a chandelier interior light for the classy girl, or a ping-pong table for the gamer. Basically, P.M.R.:T.C.F.S. takes a worthless, ugly, run-down car that you’d be embarrassed to be seen in, and turns it into a conspicuous, expensive and ridiculously painted car that you’d be embarrassed to be seen in.

Indeed, the colors the guys at W.C.C. choose are totally extreme shades that you’re more likely to see on Fruit Roll-Ups than automobiles, like lime green fading to shimmering dark green. My favorite color is Tan-orange, “a blend of tangerine and orange”. To the untrained eye, it looks suspiciously like orange. Other colors by the same manufacture include Yellemon, Strawberred, and Blonyx.

The recipient spends the first few minutes of each show obviating how shitty their car is: duct tape on the mirrors, exposed foam in the vinyl seats, mismatched paint on the panels etc.; and why they deserve a pimped ride (Best reason: “I’m in a rock band and want to get chicks.” Worst reason: “I just graduated from business school and want potential employers to respect me.”)

Then cut to my favorite part of the show: On a deserted street, mirage-special-effect-fade-in. Xzibit posing mythically statuesque. This is the most qualified person ever to pimp your ride!

The rest of each episode is downhill: Xzibit rehashes everything wrong with the car. He drives the car to W.C.C., where X and W.C.C. make fun of how run-down the car is (in case you didn’t notice already). Cut to a scripted ‘brainstorming’ session where W.C.C. explains how they’ll modify the car, show some action shots of tearing stuff apart and welding it back together and throw in an obligatory ‘glitch’. Unlike American Chopper, where design problems and interpersonal conflicts that add depth to the program, P.M.R.:T.C.F.S.’s glitches are superficial and contrived — “The espresso machine doesn’t fit in the arm rest? We’ll build a custom armrest.” Excuse me, but maybe under your forearm isn’t the best place to store scalding liquid.

The episode ends with the recipient seeing their restored car and comparison shots of each detail in earlier disrepair (for the fourth time) and the new pimped-out detail. It would have been a welcome change to mix up the format a bit: pimping two motorcycles instead of a car perhaps? Or pimping a celebrity’s luxury car. But the P.M.R.:T.C.F.S.. producers chose to adhere to their format with military precision.

The DVD bonus features were also lackluster, unless you’re into Xzibit jumping in front of the camera and messing up other people’s lines, or auto mechanics smacking each other on the ass.

Somehow integral to understanding P.M.R.:T.C.F.S. is my experience buying the DVD collection. Checking out at Wal-Mart, the store clerk (who spoke and looked not unlike Napoleon Dynamite) expressed to me his enthusiasm for the show–“Awesome, this show is rocks. How many cars are in it? I bet a lot.”– and inquired to what extend I had pimped my ride. I felt badly to disappoint him. With wide eyes he read the entire dust jacket before placing it in a bag.

Archived article by Aaron Suggs
Sun Contributor