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Discovering the Monster In You

I haven't had cable television for over a year, but I still manage to check out my favorite programming on Discovery, TLC, History Channel and Comedy Central when visiting family and friends. While kicking back at a New Year's Eve party, I "discovered" Monster Garage, a new show on Discovery Channel that's generated so much interest that it's already spun off two popular new shows. I believe we can learn something from all this mechanized mayhem.

A cross between Junkyard Wars and Survivor, Monster Garage is a documentary-style contest involving mechanically inclined wrench monkeys and regular old automobiles. The wrinkle is that the talented mechanics are given one week to transform the auto into a specialized piece of machinery.

For example, a talented team, lead by the show's host and bike builder extraordinaire, Jesse James, transformed a new Mini Cooper into a snowmobile. In another show, they changed a perfectly harmless Mustang convertible into a lawnmower. At the end of each show, the Frankenstein machinery goes up against real world machines. A modified Mac Tools van challenged a paperboy, mail carrier and FedEx deliveryman, and managed to beat them all single-handedly.

One of Discovery Channel's hottest new shows plays off Monster Garage's host Jesse James' own business, West Coast Choppers. In American Chopper, a father and son team (owners of Orange County Choppers) build high-end custom bikes while managing to antagonize each other relentlessly. The bikes are beautiful, but the rivalry is most likely the ratings-grabbing culprit.

The second spin-off, Monster House, takes the theme home. Similar to Jesse James, host Steve Watson is a renegade contractor that manages a team of builders. Similar to Monster Garage, the builders have one week to transform a volunteer's house into a dream theme. In a recent show, the team changed a three bedroom ranch house into a 70's disco, including lighted floor, bubble walls and revolving bed.

I've learned that reality-based television doesn't have to focus on the human drama to generate ratings, at least when it comes to a primarily male audience. Perhaps the combination of machinery and human drama is the perfect balance to woo wives and girlfriends to sit alongside their men. I, for one, am going to keep an eye out for Monster Martha Stewart.