TLC's 'NY Ink' features Ami James' new tattoo parlor, less shocking than initial 'Miami Ink' show
A show like "NY Ink" would have it a lot easier if tattoos hadn't become respectable over the last few years.
But they have, so when tattoo reality show star Ami James launches a new edition out of a shop on Wooster St., he has to compensate for the relatively sedate nature of the tattoo biz by hiring an artist who's enough of a jerk to create drama on his own.
Reality and tat fans will remember James from "Miami Ink," which started in 2005 and ran about three years. After it ended, James suggested one of the reasons is that his work force had been together for years, knew each other and got along.
Good for business, good for everyone's blood pressure - not so good for ratings. Some significant percentage of reality show fans, like hockey fans, get bored without regular brawls.
James makes a point of explaining up front, at some length, that he's determined to become a success in New York because he was here 20 years ago and got his tail kicked. So now he wants to show that if he can make it here, he can make it anywhere, or something like that.
He also notes the cost of doing business in New York is four times higher than in Miami, so he needs to do a hundred tattoos a week to make it work. His personal reputation should help there, but this may also test the promotional power of TLC.
The clients in Thursday night's kickoff episode are uniformly pleasant. One woman is a model who travels and wants a large tree tattooed on her thigh to give her a feeling she belongs somewhere.
Others want designs that remind them of a late parent. We know all this because tattoos take time and the artist invariably chats with the client during the process, so naturally the conversation runs to the reason this person wants this design.
That element of the show also feels as if it promotes body art itself, making it seem as routine as keeping a photograph on the wall. None of the clients here looks remotely dangerous or seems to harbor a hint of rebellion.
Nor does Ami's new artist crew seem especially rowdy - until he hires Chris Torres, an old friend who just happens to reappear at just the moment the show needs drama and a villain.
Torres delivers. He's a good artist, it turns out, but as Ami admits up front, he seems almost impossible to get along with. He takes people's supplies, he insults women, and the previews of upcoming episodes promise that he will only get worse.
This may be enough to make the show a success. But once a show is 80% about fighting, it loses its singularity, because it could be any two people in any workplace arguing over who gets to use the Xerox machine.