Case Number 12436


Genius Products // 2005 // 500 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // November 21st, 2007

The Charge

Replace motorbikes with tattoos, replace father and sons with male friends, and there you have it...American Ink! I mean Miami Chopper. Well, you get the idea.

Opening Statement

Reality TV has been around a long time, dating back to shows like Candid Camera, and it was revived into its current form in 2000 with the premier of Survivor: Borneo. Miami Ink falls into the category of professional activity reality TV, originating in 1989 with COPS, and along the same lines as American Chopper and Dog: The Bounty Hunter. Personally, even though these shows are billed as "fly on the wall" productions where a camera crew simply films the action and drama as it naturally unfolds, I find it nearly impossible to believe that the presence of cameras doesn't cause people to overact or put on exaggerated behavior and emotions. That said, I've been at some very interesting family reunions, so who knows.

Facts of the Case

Miami Ink: Season One focuses on a tightly-knit group of tattoo artists working together at a shop in Florida's South Beach. A reality show at its core, Miami Ink combines human drama and touching stories with good old personality conflicts to spice things up. It's hard not to get hooked on the show when it airs on The Learning Channel, but is there enough substance to justify a purchase?

The Evidence

I want a tattoo; this is a conclusion I've come to in the past few years. Do I have one yet? Nope. It's not that I'm particularly apprehensive about the process or worried that it will be painful. I am more concerned that anything I chose as meaningful to me now wouldn't be that meaningful any more, say at 75 years of age. So the tattoo musings continue in my life; maybe that's part of the reason why I regularly watch Miami Ink.

Nearing the end of its fifth season and with plans for a sixth, Miami Ink is closing in on 70 episodes and shows no signs of slowing down. Each show's composition is much the same...viewer's receive an inside look at the inner workings of a professional tattoo shop, including the ongoing drama and personality issues among the staff, and the personal and often touching stories of the clients who come to Ami James and his crew.

To get a sense of the potential egos and issues of Miami Ink, it's helpful to take a close look at the staff:

Ami James
Co-owner of the shop, James is both opinionated and outspoken, but is also a driven and talented artist. In most situations, it's his way or the highway, and that's where many of the interpersonal conflicts arise from episode to episode.

Chris Núñez
Sharing the ownership challenges with Ami, Chris is the ladies' man and strong silent type of the team. Starting out as a graffiti artist, he has the reputation for being both a skilled artist, and caring and generous with friends and family.

Chris Garver
Garver is a renowned tattoo artist with more than sixteen years of experience and is a master at his art. Clients seek him out specifically for their first tattoo, or return to him again to add to their ongoing personal canvas. His proven track record and laid back attitude help to diffuse some of the conflicts and keep the atmosphere light.

Darren Brass
Like Núñez, Darren Brass has a background in graffiti-style artwork and brings that unique skill and creative style to his tattoo work. Brass's warm, fun-loving personality both disarms nervous clients and puts them at ease, while also making him the target of teasing from his fellow artists.

Yoji Harada
The role of an apprentice tattoo artist can be a thankless one, not unlike earning your wings in any other profession. From the start, Yoji takes the role seriously, but certainly takes on a huge amount of responsibility in learning his craft.

Kat Von D
Brought on to help carry the client load while Darren was down with an injury, Kat is equally as stubborn and driven as Ami. When clients come looking for photo-accurate portrait tattoos, Kat is more than up to the task.

Not only is Miami Ink successful itself, former Miami Ink staffer Kat inked (sorry!) her own deal with The Learning Channel for a spin-off show called LA Ink. And London Ink, which airs for a six-week run from September 23, 2007 on Discovery Real Time, follows London-based tattooists Louis Molloy and Dan Gold, who have previously worked on the likes of David Beckham and Kate Moss.

All 10 episodes of the show's first season are included on Miami Ink: Season One. Each disc features a main menu page with some tattooing sound effects that made my upper lip sweat, as well as some full motion video clips and a funky hip hop backbeat. This release certainly won't be included on your reference list to show off your home theater, but at the same time, the audio and video quality are solid and better than broadcast. The audio presentation is clean and delivers a nice balance of dialogue and background music used in transitions and Ami James' narration segments.

There are no extra features of any kind included with Miami Ink: Season One. It would have been interesting to hear Ami and the gang on a commentary, to get a sense of how much reality and truth this show includes. Aside from that, as the show itself is pretty much one big "making of" featurette, including anything along those lines would have seemed silly. The lack of extras really is a crime, especially when from what I can tell, the Region 2 release of this set includes cast interviews, a photo gallery, exclusive Miami Ink DVD-ROM content, and access to printable tattoo artwork.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

On the down side again, the set comes as a cardboard foldout with a cardboard slipcover, not too bad so far. But each of the discs simply slides into a cardboard slot; there are no plastic trays or other elements to protect the discs from potentially scratching every time you remove them or put them back after viewing. Maybe this was a cost-saving measure, but it certainly won't save costs for any consumer who needs to replace the discs after multiple viewings. My advice? Invest in an empty five-disc DVD case from Ebay and save the risk of potential damage to your investment.

Closing Statement

Although the expression "guilty pleasure" is often overused, it certainly fits with Miami Ink: Season One. If you find yourself tired of run-of-the-mill reality shows like Survivor and Big Brother, spend some time with Miami Ink: Season One. Even if you don't have a tattoo yourself and thus have no point of reference for the art form, you'll likely still find something appealing in Miami Ink: Season One. Beneath the drama and occasional conflicts, you'll find a tight-knit group of world-class artists who are masters at the often-misunderstood trade of tattooing.

The Verdict

Ami James and the Miami Ink crew are not guilty...of anything to do with this release anyway. But TLC has been charged with skimping on the extras, when they're clearly out there.

Review content copyright © 2007 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 0
Acting: 85
Story: 90
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile
Studio: Genius Products
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 500 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* Official Site

* Miami Ink