Watching The Devil’s Ride, the new reality series about a motorcycle club in San Diego is a little like watching a classic horror movie. Just as a horror movie audience wants to warn the characters on the screen (“NO! Don’t unlock that door!) I kept wanting to shout at the patch holders in this show. “NO! Don’t do it man! Don’t appear in this show!”
I get this thing. I so get it.
American infotainment consumers now have a surplus of choices about how they will waste their empty and worthless lives including such free, high quality and readily accessible videos as “Amateur Wife Spit Roasted,” “Thai Hooker Tubes,” “Tiny Petite Blonde Swinger,” “Amateur Ex-Girlfriend On Hidden Cam” and “Undercover Female ATF Agent Turned Out By Bikers.” Go ahead. Google that last one right now. This review will still be here when you come back.
Bikers Better Than Porn
Biker shows promise something more than mere porn. They promise a vicarious life most viewers wish they could live which is more than a vicarious ten minutes. “They think we’re some kind of barbarians,” one of the show’s patch holders explains about the reaction he gets when he walks into a bar wearing his patch, “and it does feel good.” Of course it does. Biker shows mirror the national mood.
Five years ago most biker shows were about building obscenely expensive and virtually unridable custom motorcycles. They simultaneously invited viewers to pretend that they were skilled enough to build a custom bike and sell it to an unsuspecting celebrity then become rich enough to afford one of the things to pose on for themselves.
Now after at least a half decade of national frustration and humiliation the same demographic is eager for respect. Now your high school math teacher and the accountant next door want to pretend that they are dangerous, that they don’t have to put up with what they must put up with each day. So the biker niche market has become Jay Dobyns’ vicarious murdering of Mongols and Gangland and most of all Sons of Anarchy. Kurt Sutter who produces the most successful of these shows has said that his intentions are “vicarious badassary.” He has grown ever richer by becoming a whistle in the American boiler. And the producers of The Devil’s Ride unabashedly hope that there is enough steam for them to grow rich, too.
“They are not a gang, but I will tell you they are a fierce group of individuals,” the new show’s executive producer Jason Hervey told Realscreen, a webzine “about the global business of factual entertainment.”
“When you have (Sons of Anarchy as) the only show that it (The Devil’s Ride) can be compared to, there are things that are in that show – gun-running, drug mules and murder – that’s a really tall order to be compared to, and if we don’t produce our show right, people can feel like they’re let down if that is not what’s delivered,” he explained. “The bottom line is if anyone is a fan of kick-ass drama or action in their shows, they’re going to love this.”
Hervey told Realscreen that the Laffing Devils initially scoffed at his invitation to become celebrities. They are reported to have told him ,“We aren’t the fucking Kardashians, brother – we’re the real deal.”
“They take a lot of pride in their club,” Hervey said. “There is a lot of respect and protocol that goes into interacting with them. Essentially there was a big process about trust, because they didn’t want to look silly or do a ‘typical reality show.’”
Atypical or not the shows overflows with biker clichés. These guys either spend a fortune on cigars or the stogies come out of the production budget. Everyone knows that smoking a cigar while riding a motorcycle is the second most macho thing a man can do – exceeded only by having a woman sit on your lap cowgirl style while you sit on your motorcycle and smoke your cigar. The words “prospect” and “respect” are repeated endlessly like a dying man’s prayers. There are hints that the club is having trouble with the police. It seems unlikely that they really were having police problems when the show was filmed.
I was prepared to regard the Laffing Devils, the club at the heart of the show, as a posse of clowns. They are obviously not. The show would be easier to watch if they were. Instead, they appear to be a fairly predictable third generation motorcycle club. The first generation of clubs was heavy on World War vets. Clubs became what they are when Vietnam Vets came home. And, now clubs are changing again with an influx of veterans from the endless three-headed-war that has featured Iraq, Afghanistan and The Global War on Terror. The Laffing Devils are a three-headed-war club. And from 110 miles away I can see that they have been seduced by the bitch goddess fame.
Obviously this five-year-old club agreed to participate in this “reality series” in order to raise their profile, attract women and prospects, and finance their growth. One of the two key plot points in the first episode was the renting of a spacious, new club house. Ideally stupid infotainment consumers should believe that the Laffing Devils covered this by sending a couple of brothers out to guard a quickie mart one night. Odds are, that new clubhouse was in the production budget, too. Odds are almost as good that it was in the original pitch meeting with the network. And, the parties that club house will host and the liquor the revelers will consume are probably in the production budget too.
And The Not Show
The other plot point is the resignation of the club’s president. It is portrayed as the result of a split between old members and new ones. That’s even a plausible idea. Those splits happen when motorcycle clubs grow too fast. But it is likely that this reality show has caused a more important division in this club.
A couple of years ago, sitting in a bar with a Mongols patch holder who was about to go to prison, I asked him what he thought had gone wrong with his club. He said, “When the television cameras show up, the club has about eight months before the busts start. Eight months tops.” I agreed with him.
The Devil’s Ride is at least as boring and silly as everybody knew would be. But it turns out that this club, the Laffing Devil’s, is kind of interesting — as traffic accidents are interesting. The Laffing Devil’s have everybody’s attention now. And it will be fun to read the headlines they make in the next year.
The show is on the Discovery Channel Monday nights at ten.