Drag Race

Motoring TV: Pinks

It may be illegal to do in 40 US states, but drag racing for a car's "pink slip" is the ultimate goal in this TV series.

When it comes to automotive game shows, there aren’t exactly a lot to choose from. There are challenges given to the hosts of various programs, and there is obviously racing, but you rarely get to see members of the general public competing in anything automotive. One of the few examples in existence is Pinks, a show on Speed. There is a certain brilliance to this kind of programming, something you’d have to admit even if you don’t care for the show. The idea behind Pinks is really nothing new at all, but it had simply never been televised before.

The show’s tagline "lose the race – lose your ride" pretty much sums it up; two contestants drag race in their own cars for a chance to win their opponent’s car. The name is derived from the slang term "pink slip" for a vehicle’s title document, which comes from the fact that California used to print such documents on pink paper. This kind of racing, which had previously generally (but not always) taken the form of illegal street racing, was therefore known as "racing for pink", hence the name "Pinks". Contestants on the show sometimes know each other, but sometimes, particularly in later episodes, they would simply be paired up against a car which the producers thought was a good match.

In the more personal races, there have times when wildly mismatched cars were put up against each other, and for these situations, there is a negotiation before each of the races, with the obvious exception of the practice run.

After this practice run and an inspection of each of the cars by the competitor’s team, the racers will attempt to be granted concessions by the other racer. Sometimes this a negotiated distance ahead of the other car from which they can set off, or sometimes it is an agreement about which of the two can or can’t use their nitrous oxide. It is in this negotiation period where one of the show’s more annoying features presents itself. The host, Rich Christiansen, generally does a pretty good job of facilitating negotiations, but in doing so, he always puts on a very serious tough-guy act.

This is actually fairly understandable, the concept is derived from illegal street racing, and viewers are probably honestly expecting a certain amount of tough-guy posturing. But the problem comes from how obviously forced this is, which can make it distracting.

In early episodes of the show, racers had simply to win 2 out of 3 races for an overall win. This was soon changed to 3 out of 5, and finally to 4 out of 7. More races obviously ensure a fairer outcome, but it also allows for a greater portion of the episodes to be taken up with actual racing, while spending less time on the pointless bickering and complaining of contestants. Thankfully, although Pinks is technically considered a reality show, it is one of the few that doesn’t boil down to idiots yelling at each other over nothing. In order to further cut down on drama, contestants actually sign their cars over to the production company before the taping even gets underway.

This way, a losing contestant can’t back out of the agreement. This is also a factor in one of the more bizarre aspects of the show. Racing for titles under any circumstances is illegal in 40 states. As a result, even though the show likes to travel to different drag strips as much as possible, there are actually only 10 states where they are allowed to film. There aren't a whole lot of shows where the entire premise is illegal in most of the country. Pinks is really a show that you have to get into in order to enjoy. The casual viewer will often be turned off by the excessively technical nature of so much of the show. But that’s okay - car geeks need their show too.

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