Ridin’ with Big E for Nov. 15, 2012

Biker TV revs back up

For Weekly SurgeNovember 13, 2012 

Where are they now?

They are back on the Discovery Channel, that’s where.

Jesse James, famous in the motorcycle world as a bike builder and owner of the now-defunct West Coast Choppers, became infamous in the mainstream in March of 2010 as the louse that cheated on America’s sweetheart, actress Sandra Bullock, according to allegations by more than one woman. James’ star rose in large part thanks to exposure he got on cable television where he was introduced to many via the Discovery Channel documentary “ Motorcycle Mania.” The network capitalized on James’ popularity by making him the host of “ Monster Garage,” where his no-nonsense, blue collar work ethic and creative fabrication skills made him the hero of gearheads nationwide.

Later he would star on Spike TV’s short-lived “ Jesse James Is A Dead Man,” where James performed a variety of death-defying stunts including jumping a monster truck into a house and attempting to break land speed records. During his time with Bullock, he made the leap to network TV as a contestant on the second season of Donald Trump’s “ Celebrity Apprentice.” where he challenged NBA legend Dennis Rodman to enter rehab and giggled like an immature school boy after farting on camera. James, not surprisingly, landed back on cable making appearances on post-Bullock rebound girlfriend (and eventually fiancé for six months) Kat Von D’s show “LA Ink.” Also not surprising is the fact they didn’t last as a couple either, which I predicted in this column when they first got together.

After the firestorm of bad P.R. following his fallout with Bullock and then Von D, James, as he put it, “…sold everything and started a new life,” bringing an end to West Coast Choppers. James explained on his new Discovery Channel show, “Jesse James: Outlaw Garage.” “Everyone on the planet got to take a free shot…California just became a really unfriendly; un-livable place for me and my kids. I shut West Coast Choppers down, sold everything…just packed up and split with the kids and the dogs and just started a new life here.” “Here” is Austin, Texas where the California native had been commuting to and from over the past six years – at one point to be closer to Bullock and his kids who were living with her at the time.

The new Discovery Channel show follows James, who bought into Austin Speed Shop and his crew as they rebuild ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s-style cars. In the first episode James talks of simplifying things and getting back to what is important in life, which the narrator describes as “Being a great dad and his newest venture: Austin Speed Shop.”

Following James’ national introduction at the dawn of the chopper craze of the early ‘00’s no motorcycle show was more popular than Discovery Channel’s American Chopper: The Series featuring the highly volatile and highly dysfunctional Teutul family. Early on the guys from Orange County Choppers appeared at what was Club Kryptonite in Myrtle Beach and there was even an episode centered on the unveiling of their helicopter-themed motorcycle right here in Myrtle Beach during Bike Week.

The show was cancelled after six seasons and a move to The Learning Channel in 2010. Through the years what started as an amusing, voyeuristic look into the family bickering between a grumpy, old school, iron-working father (Paul Teutul, Sr.) and his prima donna, designer son (Paul Teutul, Jr.), tempered with comic relief by the lovable, screw-up brother (Mikey Teutul) degenerated into troubling and serious family issues that included Senior firing Junior and an ugly lawsuit to gain total control of the company, which ultimately ended up in financial straits after the chopper fad cooled. Mikey ended up in rehab and quit the show; both Senior’s step-mom and his dog Gus died; and Junior failed at a product design business. He would return to what he knows, opening another bike building company in direct competition with his dad, and in August of 2010 The Learning Channel was back to capitalize on all of it rebranding the new version of the show as “American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior.” (The show was moved mid-season to TLC’s sister channel Discovery where the show originally aired.)

For years I sided with Paul, Sr. as Junior routinely showed up late for work and seemed to take more credit than he deserved for the business his dad helped him build, but I have to admit changing allegiances after seeing how petty and vindictive Senior was on the newer show. Last December the show pitted the two head-to-head (-to-head) with each other and the aforementioned Jesse James in a three-way bike building competition. Junior’s bike won bragging rights. After years of feuding, a compromise was finally reached that put the lawsuit to bed; and, both Pauls have begun to gradually mend fences. In recent episodes the two even took a step closer when they agreed to build a chopper together for charity.

They’ll be battling once more though in a new four-way build-off featuring both Teutuls, James and the addition of Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kauffman from Discovery’s “ Fast ‘n’ Loud.” The build-off will take place during a two-part special airing Dec. 10-11.

I am amazed that despite the chopper craze fading, as it does every couple of decades, the stars of these every-man bike builders have managed to not only smolder, but appear to be rekindling. It should be interesting to see how things develop and will make for a nice motorcycle diversion as temperatures drop and the riding season winds down.

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