Ever watch a reality show and find yourself disgusted by the contrived reality it stuffs in your face? Ever get insulted by how gullible they think you are? Well, you’re not alone. The infinitely-popular Fast N’ Loud has been stirring up this type of controversy for years now and yet remains wildly successful. Why?
Because we love it anyway. A lot of people spend a lot of money figuring out how exactly a specific show will need to format itself to best suit its viewers. They know what sells and they are continually learning how to transform it into a more marketable package.
Structured reality permeates some of the most successful reality shows. Unfortunately, this tends to alienate viewers when the level of corniness pegs the needle on their reality meter. But it’s usually not the cast member’s fault. The production crew knows exactly what they need to do to sell the package and they have a neat outline that denotes everything that’s expected of cast members during the show.
The recipe may be a little bit different for each show but the tactic is imperative for success, nonetheless. The Gas Monkeys had plenty of rules and guidelines they had to follow for the production to succeed. The rules are dense and thick but most of them make a lot of sense when you think about it.
Others, however, are just plain weird. There are rules about how you have to interact with the camera crews, as well as with fans. You have to be genuine, but not boring (which sucks if you’re a genuinely-boring person).
25 No Singing!
You’ve probably never even thought of this one before but it’s a real thing. Technically, you can actually sing whenever you want but it’s highly discouraged because it bars content from being used unless the licensing rights are secured. It makes sense that if you just dropped a dope single, you wouldn’t want reality shows to use your content without paying for it. But that means a complicated web of legal negotiations and your reality show is probably already operating on a shoestring budget. A rule of thumb: every time you hear a song, somebody is paying for the right to play it.
24 Just How Scripted Is It?
This is a legitimate question and it varies from show to show. Some people think that all “reality” shows are scripted to the letter; others tend to buy into the story a little more. The amount of scripting can actually fluctuate heavily depending on the production’s needs. For example, a show may be completely “unscripted” but cast members may get off-screen “prompts” or directives to guide the story. Gas Monkey Garage is a real shop with real employees. Your view, through the lens of the show, however, may not be as accurate as you think. (We’ll explain why shortly.)
23 Nice Guys Finish Last
You’re a nice person, we know that. But if you don’t kick up enough dust on the show, you’ll get a sideline seat while the cameras feast on more juicy content. Action, drama, and emotion sell reality TV and the producers are well aware of this. Although the Fast N’ Loud production lets the guys do their thing, it’s in the shows best interest to have some beef floating around every now and then. Those are the faces they like putting on camera. Get one or get out!
22 Follow The Narrative
There was a general outline that the Gas Monkeys had to follow to satisfy all the contracts and everybody had one. The details varied from Monkey to Monkey, but the fact is, there were certain things the Monkeys had to do. You don’t necessarily think of the show in those terms when you’re watching it but the skits, for example, were all contractual obligations that had to be fulfilled. Although Aaron may have liked playing Smokey and the Bandit when he got to drive a semi, he was obligated to wash his dog in the lake—whether he liked it or not.
21 No Swearing – Even When Sworn At!
Apparently, mechanics can’t swear anymore. (This is a harsh new rule for us.) Swearing and wrenching go together like peanut butter and jelly—but peanut butter and jelly don’t go on everything and neither do curse words. Tom Smith would find out just how incompatible colorful language and shop managers were when he let a fan pose next to a Rolls-Royce. The manager came out yelling and Tom fired back. This would end up backfiring against his favor, however, when Rawlings fired him over the incident. He’d go on to open Fired Up Garage, which was spun into Misfits Garage before long.
20 You Can’t Fire Drama
You can sack the man but you can’t shut his mouth! Even after his firing, Tom Smith was just getting started. In fact, you might say, getting fired was the best thing to happen to him! Since productions are drawn to drama like gnats to rotting food, Tom’s new Fired Up shop was of particular interest to them. For one, he’d already gained a rapport with the people, so kick-starting a show would be that much easier. Two, if you turn Fired Up into an acronym, it could be taken as a not-so-hidden message to Rawlings and the Gas Monkey manager.
19 You Can’t Strong-Arm The Rawlings
Rawlings isn’t just you’re average Gas Monkey, he’s a producer and a business savvy one, too. “He’s a blur of entrepreneurial activity” asserts Discovery senior vice president of production, Craig Coffman. “The guy knew how to use the show to get what he wanted to do.” (Entrepreneur.) Rawlings is just super legit with his business, so you know he’s taking no lip at the shop. Even members of the production are, to a degree, bound to his biddings and if he says something, you listen. He is a producer of his own show, after all.
18 The Cars Don’t Need To Make Money (Anymore)
The whole point of the show is to make money—but not for Gas Monkey. (Obviously, that’s a plus.) Gas Monkey was doing well before the show but it was the national spotlight that would really line Rawlings’ pockets with cheddar, rather than the garage. Sure, he likes turning profits on cars but if the production has an agenda, that agenda is going to happen. Sometimes, this interferes with production schedules and Rawlings is okay with that. The majority of his earnings come from Fast N’ Loud and he’s not quick to forget the fact.
17 Those Aren’t The Firebirds You’re Looking For
Reality and fabrication came to a point when Fast N’ Loud’s “barn find” Firebirds were reported to be rare prototypes (rare, expensive prototypes). This ended up not to be true—to the extent that the story was embellished and we can only reason that, between a multi-million-dollar production and all the Monkeys, somebody there would have been able to uncover the truth (and correct it). But they went with the prototype story anyway and got called on the fib. Why didn’t they just correct the information themselves and maintain credibility? Because, going back to contracts and agendas, the “agenda” was to find a rare “prototype” barn find (not two $15,000 Firebirds).
16 Pretend It’s Real
This is where it all starts to come together. This is where contracts meet Firebirds and ratings meet revenue. We wouldn’t even know who these guys were if it weren’t for the TV show and there wouldn’t be a TV show without viewers like you. Productions know exactly how to keep your attention and there is a format to follow. And while it’s unfortunate that a few guided scenes here and there can ruin the show for some of us, if there wasn’t any sauciness, the show would just be boring.
15 Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines!
Deadlines! They keep the lights on and kill the fun faster than the Black Plague! Nobody likes deadlines but when cars need to get done, they need to get done! To make the show work alongside the actual Gas Monkey builds, crews had to work insane hours. Filming only exacerbated the everyday stress of operations. Aaron would reach a breaking point when he realized he wasn’t building the cars he wanted to. His ideal builds “[surpass] what can be done on TV in time and budget” (Art of Gears).
14 Cars Need To Look Good (On The Outside)
Fast N’ Loud is no Overhaulin’. Fast N’ Loud, as it happens, has the word “fast” in the title for a reason. This has been the source of backlash by viewers who think every televised restoration should be a frame-off doozie. Gas Monkey can do full restores but that’s not a mainstay of their enterprise; they build the hot rods we’d build (in our backyards). They use good parts and they do good work but they don’t always do all of the work. And that’s okay because they’ve never pretended to do anything else.
13 Rawlings’ Way Or The Highway
Rawlings has proven to us that he doesn’t play around, on or off the set. The David Allen Coe debacle was essentially a power-move to hustle some more money from Rawlings by trying to “extort [them] for extra money up front to ‘perform outside’ despite the fact that [it wasn’t] in [the] contract.” After canceling, Rawlings ignited Coe’s name on his massive social media platform, which is a freight train of a force these days. What did he do when he didn’t like the way Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill was run? He sabotaged the third-party buyout (which would earn him a $6 million defamation lawsuit, as reported by Dallas News).
12 You Have No Privacy
It would appear that Aaron is staring into the corner of the shop, but he’s actually looking at the camera crew, crates of gear, wires, and microphones, and anything else needed to make a top-level production inside an auto shop. The cameras roll constantly; parabolic microphones pick up what the mic booms miss. If the production used eight cameras for just a week, recording eight hours each, 64 hours of footage would be available by the end of the day, 448 hours by the end of the week, and 1,792 hours by the end of the month. The production team was then free to pick and choose footage to selectively follow their narrative.
11 You Can Say No If You Want To
All “reality” shows vary by nature; from the levels of scripting and structured reality to the format and production agenda. Fast N’ Loud wasn’t plagued with a million corny scenarios in pre-fabricated situations intended to “lead” the flow of events (or not too much). Although it was mainly about guys building cars, as the show would continue to grow, the format would change to accommodate it. This meant being a show pony sometimes and making a fool of yourself for the camera. If it wasn’t in the contract, cast members didn’t have to do anything they didn’t want to—although some things were “highly encouraged.”
10 You Should Have A Few Skeletons – But Not Too Many
Dusty skeletons are always good for the ol’ ratings. Big-brand TV productions are well aware of this fact, too. For this reason, they hunt and track down every place you’ve ever left a paper trail, dig up old records, and put you under a microscope. Anything of public interest is made public if it’ll boost ratings—you signed the contract, remember? Having a few “interesting” moments in your past works out for the “character development” aspect of the show, but if you’ve been a really bad boy, chances are that you won’t stick around very long.
9 Be Yourself
They may have you jump through a few hoops here and there, and you may have to act out some silly skits that make you look like a tool (like Tom Smith’s Sheriff Buford T. Justice impression from the Smokey and the Bandit skit). The cast members are encouraged to “be themselves” during filming rather than try to put a front on. The reason they want genuine human interactions—despite the structured environment—is to induce a connection with the audience. We can smell phony a mile away and producers know this.
8 No Music Either
Wanna bump Eminem’s “Rabbit Run” while you slam that Edelbrock Performer RPM intake on that small block? Nope. Feel like some “Hangar 18” as you zing those wheel lugs on? Don’t even think about it. For reasons you’ve probably already guessed, music is a big no-no. We, as mechanics, know that a good jam makes time fly and we actually work faster. But any sound bites that pick up “unauthorized noise” can’t be used unless somebody wants to pay for it. That means your trusty Bluetooth speaker has to stay in its drawer.
7 Hands Off The Film Crew
This one sounds strange at first glance but it actually makes sense. Cast members can’t touch the crew members or their equipment. Rules like this have to exist to protect the film crew. It’s not so much a problem with the Gas Monkeys but certain reality-show formats have the tendency to upset cast members off with their intrusive recording practices, even though it’s all part of the show. The Gas Monkeys don’t mind film crews there (for the most part) but they can’t just go swatting microphones out of their faces when they don’t like something!
6 Upstanding Etiquette
Productions like sauciness and they like drama—and they love the resultant ratings. The more of a train wreck you are, the more they’re going to want to film you. Instant fame doesn’t just come with a free pass to be annoying though. Cast members have standards of conduct that must be upheld to preserve the image of the production. All cast members instantly become stars and stardom will blow up social media accounts faster than the Hindenburg. Any defaming statements or claims to the public are contractually prohibited (for obvious reasons).
5 Keep A Fresh Change OF Clothes Handy
This is one that few people will really talk about and it’s not so much a rule, as it is a rule of thumb. The Gas Monkeys have to work long hours to pump cars out in the allotted time frames. When a build gets behind, they have to kick it into overdrive and bang it out as fast as they can. This means that the Monkeys won’t always have the chance to go home and shower when they want to. Cast members quickly learn—after exactly the first time—that wearing dirty clothes for too long just sucks.
4 Production Crews Can Interfere With Whatever You’re Doing
Ok, not everything. Certain safety-sensitive operations are given ample space to work, like when a TH350 is being pushed up into a transmission tunnel. Aside from that, the camera crews need to be able to get the shot, which sometimes equates to a camera all up in the Monkey’s grills. Sometimes, they even need to stop everything they’re doing and explain it for the camera. Although this can be extremely frustrating at times—especially given the deadlines—no shot equals no show. If there’s no show, there’s no paycheck. If there’s no paycheck, there are no Monkeys.
3 Appreciate All Fans (Even The Bad Ones)
But what’s a bad fan? A bad fan is a guy that’s slamming cast members on forums, streaming videos, and social media. He’s the guy that thinks he could do it better than them and he makes sure the world knows it too. He’s not famous and nobody cares about him. But these people can get under the skin like a chigger. Cast members still have standards to uphold as representatives of the production, though and that means taking the high road sometimes. It’s never the fun road but social media squabbles just make everybody look bad, which isn’t good for ratings.
2 Take Your Problems To The Producer
This isn’t necessarily a rule, per se but it’s a highly encouraged practice when cast members encounter things they don’t like. Is that camera (still all up in your grill) bugging you? The camera guy is the last person to talk to—he’s just doing his job. Any and all issues need to be taken up with producers to find a resolution. Leaving the control (and the resultant liability) in the hands of the production, rather than doing on their own hands, saves everyone from potentially sticky situations.
1 The Production Schedule Rules All
Cast members have to be okay with the fact that the production schedule is everyone's number one priority. KC Mathieu was the paint and body guy on the show for over three years. He recalls “… [having] no idea what [he] was getting into.” (Goodguys.) “We worked seven days a week straight…for two years!” That’s what had to be done, and that’s what he did. And it worked. Similarly, all cast members are expected to “do what it takes” to get their jobs, and the show, done!
Sources: Music Bed, Screen Rant, Entrepreneur, Art of Gears, Hot Rod, and Goodguys.