What's the difference between a bad tattoo and a bad television show? The latter won't last nearly as long as the former.
With highly visible quasi-celebrities, athletes and models sporting their own variations of self-beautification ad nauseum, the once taboo art has gone mainstream, catering to everyone with a Technicolor dream. Is it any surprise then that tattooing has charted as the latest accessorized fashion trend, and subsequently become clichéd fodder for reality television? Unfortunately, the vast majority of individuals who get tattooed do so for the wrong reasons, and programs like Inked do nothing to educate the uninitiated, instead traveling the lowest common denominator route by making tattooing into a flashy commodity.
Billed as "hardcore and unflinching", the DVD chronicles eight of the program's best episodes from its inaugural season. Centered on the Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company (conveniently located in Las Vegas' own Palms Casino Resort) the program purports to take viewers into a world of magnificent artistry and touching human drama via the shop's "larger-than-life staff". Nothing could be farther from the truth. Inked is little more than a cheap rip-off of MTV's The Real World staged in a glitzy mall, albeit without the original program's moderately engaging story lines and entertaining cast members.
Of the sundry bland characters introduced in Inked's first season, the focal points are H&H proprietor and motorcross legend Carey Hart, co-owner Thomas Pendleton, Thomas' love interest, Monica, shop flunky/village idiot, Dizzle, and obligatory blonde bimbo, Quinn. Not exactly a murderers' row of scintillating personalities for viewers to follow week to week, and even more problematic as each episode is crafted around tepid subplots with minimal overlap or thematic intertwinement. Additionally, the show's flawed blueprint achieves the opposite affect to its (purported) original intent: As separate episodes highlight a given character while trying to create dramatic tension, all that is accomplished is the showcasing of incredibly shallow story ideas populated by incredibly shallow people. Dizzle's desire to become a respected tattooist is undercut by his immaturity and stupidity; Quinn is barely competent as a receptionist, as her perkiness is rivaled only by her penchant for being disorganized and forgetful; Thomas' angry young man persona is punchless, and his "I don't want anyone to love me" attitude elicits yawns rather than empathy; Monica functions as the shop's weepy mannequin, with bee stung lips and augmented chest; Carey Hart appears to have too much time and money on his hands. Even the introduction of Hart's laughably sleazy partner, John Huntington, and the ensuing buyout of the shop lacks sufficient intrigue and appeal.
As poorly conceived as Inked - The Best of Season 1 is, the most glaring weakness is that minimal attention is dedicated to actual tattooing, rendering the show's backdrop as utterly pointless. Essentially, Inked could have been filmed in a record store or convenience mart with similar results. When the camera does focus on the art, it is unspectacular at best, and points the lens directly at H&H's blatant disregard for reputable practitioners' three I's: Avoiding customers who are impulsive, intoxicated and/or impatient. Most every patron entering the H&H inner sanctum is a drunken college student, starry-eyed tourist or gaudy Vegas local, none of whom have given one whit of consideration to the requisite commitment associated with getting a tattoo. Those who have respect for tattooing and the importance of developing a relationship with a chosen artist do not, as a rule, get their work done in casino malls or generic walk-in policy parlors. But then, once a particular industry becomes over-exposed as the next hot fad, the proverbial flood gates swing open, giving access to the salivating masses while true enthusiasts run for cover. It was not that long ago when a person sporting tattoos and riding a hand-built chopper was viewed as an untouchable; now every poseur, wannabe and never-was has joined the fray, corrupting the world of tattoos (and custom motorcycles) with an obsessive urgency to become part of the in-crowd.
Sadly, Inked'sinitial concept could have made for a fascinating season of viewing by providing a historical and spiritual perspective to body art, by including a handful of the industry's most gifted tattooists, and lastly, by not representing the business as a cheap, commercialized endeavor. Instead, Inked - The Best of Season 1 has trivialized a centuries-old art form and dishonored every legitimate artist who takes pride in the furtherance of his/her craft. The show is an embarrassingly poor effort by A&E, one that merits no further attention, and a program which, much like a badly inked tattoo, will assuredly fade away rather quickly.