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L.A. Ink: Season 1

Other // Unrated // July 22, 2008
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted September 7, 2008 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

As I understand it, L.A. Ink is a history-making show. It's the first spinoff of a reality show set in a tattoo parlor, yay! And the first one was set in a tattoo shop too, double yay! But as it turns out, artist Kat Von D, who worked at the first shop in Miami and was let go, decided to start one in Los Angeles, hence the genesis of L.A. Ink. Now, as one who got his first tat last year and is starting to look at another (or more, depending on how much permission I have from my better half), there was a motivation behind watching the show, which was nice. Daddy needs some more ink on his body!

With that said, watching over half of the first season of the show, it's clear to me that for whatever reason, Kat thinks of herself as a minor celebrity. Before I get into that, if I remember this correctly, when she was working at the Miami shop, she was enlisted to help get tattoos set up with Paul Sr. and the Orange County Choppers gang on American Chopper, another reality show on the TLC network, but that crashed and burned for whatever reason. So now she's opening up her own shop and bringing in fellow female artists Hannah Aitchison and Kim Saigh, along with Corey Miller, whose reputation in the industry is highly regarded. And Kat's presence on the show is definitely front and center. She's in the intro, she's provides voiceover for just about every segment for some mind-numbing reason, and she's on the DVD cover. But it's not like she's that attractive, unless facial ink and cigarette smoke are aphrodisiacs to you. She might be a nice girl in person, but my impression after watching the show is that she thinks way too much of herself, and if she wasn't on two reality shows set at her place of work, she'd be doing other things I'd rather not consider.

But the show isn't all that bad. Obviously, time spent with the staff is a given. Some of it is productive, like most anything with them coming to L.A. and getting acclimated, but most of it is just jokey time-filling, and since each episode is an hour long, almost smells like desperation. Corey goes to get a vasectomy? Kat considers breast implants? Stop already, and just get to the artwork. And since it's Los Angeles, there's a wide variety of celebrity patrons that come in for work, among them Steve-O (Jackass), Jesse Metcalfe (Desperate Housewives) and Jenna Jameson among them. But it's the stories from the non-recognizable names that are the presumable reason why folks are tuning in by the droves.

For those who might not know or understand why people pay other people to allow them to paint their skin with needles and ink, a tattoo is more than just a sailor coming into a bar and getting "Mom" done on his arm. Some are just done on whims, like Kat's are from time to time, but in other cases, they are very personal expressions of love and remembrance. Women come into the store to get pictures of their family or their loved ones who have passed on, or to celebrate obstacles they've overcome. One woman was in a horrific car wreck where she lost two months of her memory, and got a tattoo to recognize that she had a guardian watching over her, as many say she could have easily died in the wreck. Men come in for drawings of their father or children, and a good portion of these stories are quite emotional, and my wife was especially moved in a couple of cases. So the next time you walk by someone with a picture on their arm, and it strikes you as curious, it's worth spending a minute and asking the who's and why's behind the image; you might get an especial tale that you wouldn't have known about but appreciated the time to listen to.

The Disc:

L.A. Ink is presented in 1.78:1 non-anamorphic widescreen, so I'm assuming that it was filmed this way. Things look decent, but some of the background images suffer from pixilation issues and it's a distraction from time to time.


Dolby stereo is the rule of thumb for this television show, not that you should really be expecting something else. But man, hearing that needle for extended periods of time can wear on your nerves.


You get to spend about 10 minutes with Kat and the staff, with Pixie (the shop manager) filling in for Kim. There's not too much here that you don't already seem to get from watching the interviews of them in between segments on the show, but whatever. There are, however, some temporary tattoos which are a combination of Kat's work and the show's logo, and that's a thoughtful inclusion.

Final Thoughts:

L.A. Ink makes for surprisingly good viewing, I've got to admit. I consider reality shows like this and Dog the Bounty Hunter decent viewing because they really do tell the stories of real people, and their thoughts and feelings are minimally staged, because the emotion is identifiable. The staged stuff, like the staff's outings and pretty much anything involving Kat, is a little bit annoying though. If I was running the show, I'd cut things down to a half hour a week, trim down Kat's voiceover stuff and you might do even better than you are. But those newbies should consider watching this first on TV before making a purchase decision.

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