"Best Ink" Premiers Tonight
I'm going to go out on a limb and say this: TV is not killing tattooing. I know. Crazy talk, especially from a person who has been mocking reality tattoo shows from Miami Ink to NY Ink and all those shirtless promos of Ami James in between. [We even took time out of our lives to make a drinking game for the latest Ink show.] But the intense outcry today against these shows and the so-called "sell-outs" (I hate this term) who populate them has grown exponentially and really seems disproportionate to the actual harm.
The biggest issue of course is that there really isn't anything real about reality TV. Tattooing is not as dramatic and glamorous as seen on TV and many fear the shows attract people who just want to get into it for the fame and fortune. This is very true but then reality does set in for these types of "artists" to help weed many out.
And of course there's the bemoaning of the death of tattoo's magic, something I've done more times than I'd like to admit. But Kat Von D didn't put the final nail in the tattoo cool coffin. The art was securely woven into the fabric of pop culture long before the shows. Maybe I did it. Every time a lawyer gets tattooed, a biker dies. True fact.
All the foregoing blah blah does not mean I'm a fan of all the tattoo series, but I am keeping an open mind and looking at the good and bad of these programs. And that's what I did when I got an advance screener of Best Ink, a(nother) tattoo competition show.
Best Ink premiers tonight at 10/9c on the Oxygen network. You can catch video previews of the show here. I've only seen the first episode and promos, so my Pros and Cons list below reflects this and nothing more.
The judges Joe Capobianco and Sabina Kelly. Joe has been tattooing for nearly two decades and developed a tattoo style that is sought after worldwide. Joe has paid his dues. He's speaks his mind. And he has great hair. Perfect judgey material. You'll also be happy to know that he makes people cry on the show. People who you want to see cry. Bonus! Sabina was a "tattoo model" before the term was even used as a job description. [80% of tattooed women under 25 are tattoo models. True fact.] She's run a shop, she's judged and presented at international tattoo conventions, and she's beautiful. TV likes beautiful.
The host Kimberly Caldwell, seventh place finalist on the second season of American Idol. I don't get it. At least Dave Navarro on Ink Master had a lot of freakin tattoos to distract us from his overly groomed facial hair. In the first episode, Kimberly tries explaining why on earth she would be running this show by saying something to the effect that "she's all business in the front, and party in the back," turning around to reveal a lettering tattoo on her shoulder blade. I threw something at my computer screen. I think it was a Clay Aiken cd.
I would have loved to see a celebrity who has a passion for tattooing. I would have loved to see Margaret Cho, who is getting tattooed by some of the best in the business and sharing her experiences being a tattooed woman on her amazing blog. A pro here is that Margaret does make an appearance as a judge. The thing is that Margaret, with all her tattoos, biting wit and dirty mouth, is not safe for a mass audience. Kimberly is safe. My mom will like her.
There are some strong tattooists on the show like Roman Abrego and Jon Mesa. Viewers have an opportunity to see what a "good" tattoo can be by those who have experience and skill.
There are some inexperienced tattooers on the show who do damage to the sad people who agree to get tattooed under the ridiculous conditions of a competition show just to be on TV.
The biggest con: presenting all the contestants as the "top tattoo artists" in America.
The biggest pro: the actual judging of the tattoos -- the dissection of the elements of how a tattoo should be crafted, which could educate a mass audience on the possibilities of the art. The drama here is largely derived from achieving the best execution of the work, rather than, say, the backstory of a transsexual war veteran who lost her cat during a house fire and that's why she wants a tattoo of Garfield engulfed in flames holding an AK-47 with Old English script that says "RIP Odie" underneath. True story.
Bottom line: I'm going to watch it. There will be moments when it will make me mad. And there will be moments when Joe schools the kids on tattooing that will make me cheer. In any case, it's entertainment. Not reality. Perhaps it needs a drinking game.