A&E’s King of Cars debuts tonight

A&E begins to profile yet another industry tonight at 10 p.m. ET with two back-to-back episodes of its new reality series King of Cars. The series follows Las Vegas car dealer Chop, “one of the nation’s most successful car dealerships,” according to A&E, and his on-the-lot behavior and crazy infomercials show that he understands the business.

Chop is like the urban version of Jonathan Antin, rapping instead of crying, and selling cars instead of doing hair. But he has the same firey passion and contagious energy for his work. “Why can’t it be fun to buy something, and why can’t it be fun to work somewhere?” he asks, shortly after fireworks are set off at a staff meeting.

The problem is, they’re selling cars, and the show doesn’t really humanize car dealers so much as it confirms our suspicions about them. I watched the first episode, and in it, a salesperson named Ali tells us, “This guy’s grying to leave on me, but I gotta look casual. I don’t want them to feel that I just got my hawk eye on them, even though I do.” It’s really depressing watching people get pressured and screwed, basically. Also in the first episode, a couple with two small children agree on a $439 monthly payments rather than the $300 they wanted to spend, and they also pay $2,000 more than they’d planned for a down payment—never mind the fact that they made a deal based upon payments instead of cost, thus getting screwed on the actual cost and interest. It’s almost painful, but definitely educational and worthwhile to watch.

At least one other reviewer agrees that the show’s real value is in seeing how soulless this industry is. The Hollywood Reporter calls the show “an eye-opening look at dealmaking as seen from the other side of the sales manager’s glass window,” although “it’s impossible to shake the feeling that these scenes have been greatly sanitized to disguise the actual extent of manipulation and duplicity that goes on during the process.”

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