Each week, Jesse and a team or mechanics, welders, designers and all-around gear-heads struggle to transform a stock vehicle into an out of the ordinary machine that still retains the stock appearance. The first four episodes saw a Ford Explorer turned into a Garbage Truck, a Ford Mustang Lawn Mower, a Limousine Fire Truck and a Volkswagen Beetle turned into a Swamp Buggy.
The initial premise differs very little from the format that currently airs, with the main difference being that Jesse now normally participates in the entire process every week. The teams now must only successfully complete the vehicle transformation to win their prize, instead of besting a real-world counterpart. As the second season continued, vehicles were occasionally allowed to drop their stock appearance as well.
Monster Garage has done something that little other television shows have done; it glorifies and celebrates the middle-class workers that essentially built the country we now live in. In this day and age of computers, the Internet and dot com everything, it celebrates the gear-head guys (and women) that see a challenge and conquer it. When two pieces need to be joined together and no connector is to be found, build it from a solid piece of steel.
Tearing it all down to build it up again appeals to the destructive and creative nature in us all. Watching Jesse fabricate a set of pipes for a car from hand because "it will look cool" is what this show is all about. Perhaps part of the reason the show amazes me so is because somewhere in this DVD reviewing, web-site building, Internet loving body of mine is a closet gear-head grease-monkey that fondly remembers growing up in his grandfather's garage and restoring a 1970 Chevy Malibu to mint condition. I remember the look on my face the first time we started the 350 big-block engine for that car after rebuilding it. The bare engine, with no exhaust or pipes, shot flames and rumbled the basement in which we were working. My dad and I traded the largest grins I ever remember wearing. That's a look that crosses the faces of the participants on this show weekly.
The first four episodes of the series included in this set show a wide variety of skills, but lack some of the spit and polish that would come later as the series found itself and it's audience. Included in the set are:
White Trash: Jesse and the crew attempt to transform a 1994 Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer into a garbage truck. As it often happens on the show, there is 3 times the equipment that must be fit into a place half the size it normally goes. Lots of fabrication and cutting combine with some serious hydraulics on job the Jesse had serious doubts could be completed.
Fire truck: A 1996 Lincoln Town Car Limo is transformed into a working fire truck; compete with a retracting water canon. This episode is one of the best examples of the "don't have it, make it" mantra that is so appealing. No problem is too big for the team in this one.
Swamp Buggy: Turning this 2000 Volkswagen Beetle into a floating, propeller powered swamp boat looks to be the first challenge that Jesse and his crew can't complete. Get something that's not designed to float to stay above the water turns out to be a huge challenge.
Switchblade: I'll admit, turning a 1990 Mustang GT into a lawnmower was the one idea that got me into the show in the first place. I've never been a huge fan of the modern Mustang, but somehow combining speed and cutting grass were too much of a lure for me to resist. Aside from where the mower deck will reside, this was a simple job compared to the others.
Still going strong and approaching 24 episodes, Monster Garage seems to be experiencing no shortage of ideas as the crazy crossbreed of machines keeps coming. The show has strayed from the initial idea of staying stock. Likewise, more and more donations are made as far as equipment goes, meaning the $3000 budget restrictions teams once faced are less of a threat. Despite that, the show continues with what it does best, building crazy contraptions and doing it quick, all the while showing the resourcefulness and skills that many see showcased nowadays.
Video: Your standard television / documentary fare video is what you get in this set and that's all you need. The colors are sharp and with 2 episodes per DVD, there is little pixelation in the video at all.
Audio: Aside from the few moments of soundtrack music, there little more that narration in the speakers, which means the digital 2.0 stereo track is more than enough. The vocals are crisp and clear and easy to hear at all times.
Extras: No extras at all.
Overall: This is such a great set, mainly because it's a great show that brings back a lot of memories for me and really focuses on the unsung heroes of the world today. After watching a four of these in a row anyone will be ready to go break something and put it back together again. This set is perfect for your father on Father's Day.