May 24, 2004 12:00 PM

Traffic’s Gettin’ Heavy

Pimp My Ride sets the pace as the car-makeover field grows


Have you sniffed exhaust fumes coming from basic cable? The Discovery Channel has Monster Garage and American Hot Rod. TLC offers Rides, a hot-rod show with Jason Priestley. Testosterone-fueled Spike TV, home of Ride with Funkmaster Flex and Car and Driver Television, calls this a month of Motor May-Hem. Man, that’s a lotta vroom-vroom.

But even if you care more about looks than horsepower, there’s something in this trend for you. MTV’s Pimp My Ride (Sundays at 9:30 p.m. ET) and TLC’s Overhaulin’ (Tuesdays at 9 p.m.) are basically automotive versions of Extreme Makeover. Rap star Xzibit hosts the entertaining Pimp, in which a creative crew of customizers turns junky old cars into flashy, accessory-packed funmobiles. Xzibit joshes enjoyably with the owners about the unsightliness of their vehicles, and the makeover team is naturally funny in the manner of David Letterman’s stagehands. In fact, everything’s a kick on this half-hour show, starting with the Superfly-style opening theme. Unfortunately, the hour-long Overhaulin’ is padded with typical reality-show nonsense. The cars undergo a secret transformation after TLC tricksters take them away from their owners under false pretenses. As the makeover slowly progresses, bland cohosts Chris Jacobs and Courtney Hansen keep telling us how hard everybody’s working.

Ride with Funkmaster Flex (Sundays at 8 p.m.) involves the engaging hip-hop deejay in vapid chats with celebs (not that Tyra Banks and Mariah Carey aren’t nice to look at). But it also features some cool makeovers, like the one that turned a busted-out ’76 Ford Gran Torino into a Starsky & Hutch special.

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