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TruTV and History channel launch competition shows on wheels

By Neil Genzlinger
New York Times
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/02/15/37/cyjH1.Em.138.jpeg|185
    - TRUTV
    TruTV’s “Motor City Masters,” a reality competition show, features the usual forced collaborations and simmering tensions as personalities emerge and clash.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/02/15/37/Uiigj.Em.138.jpeg|185
    - TRUTV
    The judges of “Motor City Masters” are Harald Belker, right, and Jean Jennings, center. Brooke Burns, left, hosts.

“Project Runway” begins a new season July 24 on Lifetime, but perhaps you can’t wait that long to watch high-strung contestants bitch at one another as they design something utterly frivolous, while all over the world, people are confronting real problems that have life-or-death consequences.

If so, there’s good news: Both TruTV and the History channel have new competition shows featuring designers with an inflated view of the importance of what they’re doing. But you don’t wear what these people are designing; you ride in or on it.

Last week, TruTV unveiled “Motor City Masters,” which tells two lies right off the bat. First, it’s not so much a reality show as an extended commercial for Chevrolet, and second, it takes place mostly in Los Angeles, although Detroit presumably could have used the business.

The show, on Tuesday nights, began with 10 designers who, as the weeks roll along, will face off in car design competitions, with the field being winnowed until someone is named Chevrolet’s “Motor City master” and wins $100,000.

Chevrolet and the rest of General Motors have, of course, been struggling with an image problem lately, and in the series premiere, when the contestants were offered a choice of redesigning one of three Chevys – a Malibu, a Cruze or an Equinox – you half expected the cars to be whisked away by the recall police before the contest could even begin.

Anyway, the show features the usual forced collaborations and simmering tensions as personalities emerge and clash. It is also, let’s face it, primarily of interest to people who subscribe to car magazines, because few others will be transfixed by discussions about rocker panels or mirror size. In the end, there are only so many things you can do with four wheels with a box for passengers, and during the past century or so, most of them have already been done.

A two-wheel alternative is on Tuesdays on History: “Biker Battleground Phoenix.” Why Phoenix? Because it’s “the bike-building capital of the world,” we’re told in the premiere. Why the History channel? Who knows?

Five designers of custom motorcycles square off. Unlike the TruTV series, where the competitors begin as strangers and slowly grow to hate one another, “Biker Battleground” has enmity in the air from the start: These guys are already rivals in the narrow world of motorcycle design and dislike one another, or pretend to.

The wild-looking motorcycles they come up with are a little more exciting to look at than the cars on “Motor City Masters,” but it still takes a certain gearhead’s knowledge to get into this series. The swapping of insults is moderately entertaining, though. John Shope, one competitor, calls a rival “the Michael Bolton” of motorcycle design, “and we’re like the Motley Crue.” Ouch.

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