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THERE ARE several new television shows popping up on network television or the larger cable channels this summer as short-lived series, and I'll get to some of them in the next few weeks.
But first, I have to write about my latest find: "American Chopper: The Series," on The Discovery Channel Mondays at 10 p.m.
Though this isn't a corny reality show, or even dramatic fiction or comedy, this story of one family's motorcycle design and fabrication shop in Rock Hill, N.Y., has got more excitement and grit than you'll find in 10 shows on the big networks.
This is largely because of the larger-than-life egos of a father-and-son team that makes the place work: Paul Teutul Sr. and Paul Teutul Jr.
Paul Sr. is this big bear of a guy who started all this years ago as Orange County Ironworks, a shop that made different types of iron products.
Inspired as a younger man by the many custom motorcycles that began appearing on streets and in films, Teutul Sr. started making his own custom bikes and then realized he could make a full-time business of them.
That was in 1999, and Teutul Sr., who has forearms as round as bowling balls, has since drawn three of his sons into the family business.
But nothing makes this documentary-style series light up like the constant battles between father and son in this family shop.
The action normally centers around the construction of a certain custom bike, or preparations for a big show, like the big bike week in Daytona.
Paul Jr., whom we quickly find out is a whiz at combining plain-looking pieces of metal and spray paint together to create rolling works of art, will be in the middle of some project and--WHAM!--in comes Paul Sr. to launch into him about something.
It's never anything real specific, because Paul Jr. would have an instant comeback to that.
No, as Paul Sr. begins grumbling and griping, strolling back and forth with his leather-clad chest puffed out like a cobra, he slowly rouses the ire of his son, an apple that hasn't fallen far from the tree.
Though he expresses his distress in a slightly more intense way, Paul Jr. will quickly fire back, usually having to stop the intricate work he's been doing to argue with the father who hasn't been seen doing much of anything to that point.
Teutul Sr., with his trademark sideburns that extend down his face and onto his chin like one of the swept-back sets of handlebars on his bike, gets right up in his son's face to make his point.
Then he keeps making it, jabbing his finger and squeezing his eyes to show his intense displeasure.
When Paul Jr. tries to answer some of the complaints, Paul Sr. shoots off another stream, often in another direction on another topic.
It's all Paul Jr. can do to keep from exploding as he staggers back to his latest rail, seat or fender.
Lest you be too hasty to toss this off as some extremely dysfunctional family, we see Paul Sr. seconds later talking--always to someone else--about how extremely proud he is of Paul Jr. and all his sons.
As Paul Jr. notes, his dad never actually apologizes, but does give his talented, bike-designing son credit when bike after bike sells for big bucks.
There are even moments when the two of them will hop on bikes together, cruise through town and stop on a pier along the water to share a moment or two of solitude.
If the whole family tree thing isn't amusing to all viewers--the other two sons are not featured as prominently in the show--the construction of the bikes themselves never fails to engage.
The best episode I've seen to date centered around the creation of a motorcycle to be donated to the New York City firefighters.
It had all kinds of elements designed to give the bike a firetruck sort of look, from a specially built carburetor in the shape of a fire hydrant to lights installed along the rails.
What looks one moment like a dull-colored sheet of metal is cut with careful ease to become a fender, a gas tank or designer panels along the handlebars.
Sprayed with shiny paint and decked out with decals, and sometimes, even gold leaf, the bikes seem more like works of art than vehicles for running to the convenience store.
It's all just proof that nothing can top real life for drama, certainly not that junk they keep offering up with bachelors, bachelorettes and silly ground rules that supposedly lead to happiness.
I'd rather see a real-life family fussing and feuding as they work together to create an exceptional business.
ROB HEDELT can be reached at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401; by fax at 373-8455; by phone at 374-5415; or by e-mail at email@example.com.