American Chopper: The Series: First Season (DVD)

“Come over here and stand in front of me so I can hit you in the back of the head.”

The guys at Orange County Choppers have a reputation for building the best custom motorcycles in the industry. They make the biggest, fastest, loudest, and best-looking bikes out there. There’s a lot of drama, though, that goes into the making of each bike, as millions of Discovery Channel viewers already know. Now, the first season of American Chopper the Series roars onto DVD, but is it worth a purchase?

Paul Teutul Sr., Paul Teutul Jr., and their team work around the clock creating bikes, with nothing less than perfection as their goal. At various trade shows and personal appearances around the country, the OCC crew amazes audiences time and time again with the amazing designs on their custom choppers. But behind the scenes, when a deadline is looming and the clock is ticking, not everything runs smoothly. Senior and Junior rarely see eye to eye, and heated arguments often break out. Meanwhile, little brother Mikey Teutul is on hand to answer phones, take out the trash, and offer comic relief.

This three-disc set features all 13 episodes from the first season.

Disc One
• “Black Widow Bike”
• “Black Widow Bike 2”
• “Race Car”
• “Race Car 2”

Disc Two
• “Fire Bike”
• “Daytona Bike Week”
• “Fire Bike 2”
• “Old School Chopper”
• “Old School Chopper 2/Comanche Bike”

Disc Three
• “Comanche Bike 2”
• “Comanche Bike 3”
• “Mikey’s Bike”
• “Mikey’s Bike 2”

Each two-part episode of American Chopper tells more or less the same story. The Teutuls are contracted to create a custom bike, and Paul Jr. starts coming up with groundbreaking ideas for the design. Someone usually says, “This has never been done before.” As work progresses on the bike, tensions start to flare between father and son about how the work should be done. While this is happening, Mikey makes a few jokes or waxes philosophically. Then, with only a few days left, something goes horribly wrong with the bike, and everyone goes into panic mode to get it finished in time for its big debut. The completed bike is then unveiled before hundreds of excited fans, and all the shouting matches between father and son are seemingly forgotten until next time.

For many people, American Chopper is not about the chopper. The personalities—and the personality conflicts—are the big draw of the series. Paul Sr. believes in hard work, and at the end of the day he likes to see results. Paul Jr. is the more cerebral one; he prefers to think the project through in his head and on paper beforehand, which he believes will save time and energy once the hands-on work starts. Both are equally confident that their way is the only way. When a shouting match erupts—and it always does—each side is willing to make his case, but not listen to the other’s. But that’s OK, because some of the arguments and spontaneous insults are pretty funny. Watching these two guys go at it can be pretty amusing, and there’s a reason for that. Because it’s real.

I’ll be honest: I don’t enjoy reality TV. The problem I have with most of those shows is that their “reality” just doesn’t come across as real. To me, it looks like everything is staged and planned out ahead of time. But on American Chopper, when the guys go on about painting methods or engine designs, there’s no grinning, khaki-wearing host on hand to explain everything to the audience. Instead, all we get are the Teutuls in their element. If we don’t understand exactly what they’re working on, it’s not their problem. Bear in mind, the show isn’t hard to follow, but it isn’t dumbed down for those of us who have never been within 20 feet of a motorcycle, either.

But what do I know? Perhaps these guys are just reading lines off of cue cards. But it feels real. It feels like these guys are who they really are, and this life, crazy as it is sometimes, is how they really live. It’s that feeling that makes the show enjoyable. It’d be fun to hang out and make bikes with Senior and Junior, as long as you don’t get them mad.

Video for American Chopper is adequate, looking just as good as it does when broadcast. There’s no fancy cinematography on display, but what’s here shows little to no defects. Sound is also adequate. The 2.0 track allows dialogue and the electric guitar score through with no problems.

But all is not well in Orange County. The only extras we get are brief interview clips with Paul Sr., outtakes from a commercial shoot, a photo gallery, and a trailer. But with the series in constant reruns on the Discovery Channel, and with much of this footage recycled in the many clip shows that also are rerun, there really should have been more to this collection in the way of bonus materials. Where is the unused footage? Why not have a look into the background of OCC, and the origins of turning a bunch of bike builders into TV stars? And I think we can all agree that commentaries by Senior, Junior and Mikey would be priceless. As it is now, there’s not much here that you’re not already getting on TV.

The show is a real guilty pleasure. And no, you don’t have to be a mechanic or a biker to enjoy it. Some outrageous personalities plus some neat-looking bikes makes for a fun hour of TV, nothing more.

The Teutuls are found not guilty and are free to go on harassing each other and building amazing-looking bikes. Sony is reprimanded for a less-than-impressive DVD presentation. Hey, Mikey—if you’re reading this, can I have a ride on the Blues Bike sometime?

The Verdict

Not guilty.


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