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'American Chopper' series on its last legs?

by Jerry Hitchcock
| December 10, 2010 8:00 PM

I gotta admit at one time I was a big fan of 'American Chopper,' the show on The Learning Channel about a father and son who built an enormous motorcycle business in upstate New York.

The show has aired on cable since 2003, and in that time, we've all seen many employees come and go from the Tuetel circus, which is what the show could rightly be named.

The show has reduced itself to backbiting, as separate camera crews cover Paul Tuetel Sr., and his son Paul Jr. Both harbor a lot of anger and frustration toward the other, and the genuine emotion is really the only thing holding the show together.

Like any built-for-TV reality show, the motives of the two stars are often pretty transparent, as both would like to see that TLC money for a few years to come. To that end, they are doing what has to be done to extend the starting-to-get-old storyline.

This year, the name changed to 'American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior,' as Junior, better known as Paul Tuetel Jr., has struck out on his own after quitting (or being fired, depending on who you ask) from Orange County Choppers, the business the two of them built literally from scratch.

These days Paul Jr. is busy trying to build another business from the ground up, this time his own, Paul Jr. Designs, or PJD.

This season has centered around the building of PJD, and Paul Sr.'s efforts to dispel the credibility of such. The Senior Tuetel went so far as to tamper with a prospective employee of PJD, just to cause as much chaos as he could manage.

That action does lend some proof to Paul Jr's statement in the season opener during a radio interview when he said "The difference between us is I wish (Senior) luck and (he) wishes me harm."

So here we are in early December, still awaiting a court ruling on the breakup of OCC.

A judge is expected to render a decision on the case, which centers around Senior's buyout option of Junior's 20 percent share of OCC. Senior has claimed that OCC is worth "nothing," (meaning that Senior should just receive sole ownership of the company after attaining Junior's share for free) and Junior disputes that assessment.

I'm with Junior - It stands to reason that a corporation receiving millions per year for a TV show, let alone profits from its business (which has countless endorsement deals, merchandise and at least $1 million worth of equipment at its disposal) should have plenty of digits on the left side of the decimal point.

And that ain't OCC's only legal pickle. On May 26, Justin Barnes, the painter who created many custom designs for the company's motorcycles and merchandise, filed a lawsuit against OCC, The Discovery Channel and Activision for infringement and copyright violation. The plaintiff alleges that 18 original designs were copied without his authorization and compensation.

Recent episodes have shown Senior attempting to reconcile with one son, a reluctant Mikey. Junior also got married during this time, with Senior, who was invited, a no-show.

I contacted The Learning Channel via e-mail to get the skinny. Yes, the series is still in production, and more episodes are in the works. But the only answer I received to many questions about the future of the show and its stance on the lawsuits was as follows:

"We appreciate your interest in our programming. The next new episode of American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior is currently scheduled to air on Jan. 6, 2011, at 9 p.m. (PST)."

(Signed) TLC Viewer Relations

So there you have it - The Tuetel circus lives on, for now. It should be interesting to see what plot twists they come up with that the network will deem worthy enough to re-up for another season.

Here's a few ideas for future seasons:

American Chopper - Chopping with the Stars: Two celebrity guests - one at OCC, one at PJD - rub elbows with the build teams on competing theme bikes. Viewers call in to vote for their favorite bike (or star, you know how these things go).

American Survivor: OCC and PJD teams get dropped on a desert island and have to use brain power and teamwork to defeat the other team. Losing team has to permanently leave the state of New York.

Mikey Tuetel goes to Washington: Mike, the show sidekick kept around for comic relief, heads to the nation's capitol to legislate. Mikey, while not exactly stellar as a shop worker, has the wit to carry his own show. And, obviously, he can't do any worse than the lawmakers we have "working" there now.

Paul Tuetel steals Christmas: Senior, known for barking orders and keeping his blood pressure up, plays the Grinch in a (re)made-for-TV special. Production is canceled after Senior threatens to put his "size 12" up everyone's backside.

Jerry Hitchcock is a copy editor for The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176 Ext. 0217, or via e-mail at jhitchcock@cdapress.com.

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