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Case Number 19152: Small Claims Court

Buy Overhaulin' at Amazon


Discovery Channel // 2004 // 430 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // June 24th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Victor Valdivia's new reality series, DVD Reviewin', also involves screaming, tantrums, and heavy machinery.

The Charge

Do you know where your car is?

The Case

Why must even the fluffiest, most lightweight reality series be forcibly injected with an element of drama? TLC's Overhaulin' (yes, with the apostrophe) is just a simple show about tricking out old rust heaps with fancy new tires, parts, and paint jobs, but there's an added reality show twist—pretending to the owner that the owner's vehicle has been stolen—that adds nothing but pointlessly contrived "excitement." Why can't we just see the refurbishing? Why bother with tearful phone calls, phony police officers, screaming tantrums, and near-fistfights? This could have been a nice piece of enjoyable gearhead fluff, but the prank aspect is so ill-conceived that it ends up ruining the show. All it does is raise one question: who on earth would want to see a cross between Pimp My Ride and Punk'd?

The premise of every episode is identical: The show's build team, headed by designer Chip Foose, "steals" someone's less-than-well-preserved car with the cooperation of the owner's family. Then, while the owner is misled into thinking that the car has been stolen and has disappeared forever, Boose and his team overhaul the car according to specifications provided by the family members. Finally, after a whirlwind week of cutting, painting, installing, and welding, the newly upgraded car is presented to the owner, who collapses in tears and forgives everyone for being put through emotional hell for the sake of good TV. This two-disc collection, available only on TLC's website, compiles ten episodes from the show's third and fourth seasons.

It's already a given that the only people who will want to watch Overhaulin' are hardcore car fanatics. It's understandable, then, that the show focuses so heavily on the building and refurbishing. This is all agreeable enough—Boose is a skilled artist and he does work efficiently and carefully—but this is the sort of thing that will really most appeal to gearheads. It's full of slick editing that makes things easy to grasp, and there is a certain appeal to watching talented craftsmen at work, so it's entertaining on that level at least. It is a bit disconcerting, though, that the refurbishments are all so generic and interchangeable. In "That '70s Van," the owner of a Chevy van he's had since the mid-'70s ends up getting his van tricked out with an intricate sound system, a flat-screen TV, and fancy customized seats. He did like the changes, but it might have been a more interesting idea to actually restore the van to its original '70s look rather than add the same old pricey junk that every other TV show uses. Still, though you won't really learn any tips on car restoration or repair, at least it isn't really boring, unless you have a visceral hatred of car stuff.

If Overhaulin' just focused on this aspect of the renovation, it would be a lightweight pleasure to watch. The prank parts of the show, on the other hand, are a miserable failure. The show's hosts either run these themselves, hire actors to play police officers and other characters, or involve the owner's family members. Since none of these people are skilled comedic improvisers, the prank phone calls and fake police interviews are painful to watch. The owners, still believing that their beloved vehicles have really been stolen, are either too angry to react rationally or are too sad and pitiable to sit through. In the episode "Hot Head," the victim nearly comes to blows with the actor portraying a crooked bill collector who "repossessed" his car. In "Illegal Fowl," the victim nearly comes to blows with the actor portraying a junkyard owner threatening to crush his car. These segments aren't funny, clever, or interesting—they're just awful and totally irrelevant. Why did the show's producers feel the need to tack on these reality show contrivances? They could have surely come up with a better way to get the owners' vehicles without stooping to these antics.

Even if you really like cars, then, Overhaulin' is hard to recommend. The refurbishing scenes are OK enough, if not all that original, but the interminable reality show pranks are so excruciatingly bad you'll be forced to fast-forward through them. If you want to watch a rebuild show, there are better examples, and if you want to watch a prank show, there are better examples, but it's hard to imagine who could want to watch such a forced and unlikable hybrid.

The DVD is typical reality show quality: non-anamorphic full-screen transfer, stereo sound mix, both satisfactory. There are no extras.

The Verdict

Guilty of relying way too much on reality show clichés.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 55

Perp Profile

Studio: Discovery Channel
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
Running Time: 430 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Reality TV
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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