Where Film and Auto Body Shops Collide

sitcom American Body Shop
In 2007, a production company created a sitcom, "American Body Shop," but after one short season of nine episodes, it was not renewed.

A few years back, a British company produced a comedy series about life in an auto body shop that dealt with all of the crazy and wacky things that can happen in this industry.

The characters they created were classic. First, there was the boisterous semi-retired owner who was well-known for randomly dropping in to yell and throw things. Then, there was the manager who spends all of his time hiding from the owner while taking it out on the shop’s employees.

The techs are an interesting group, all in their 40s and all working on flat rate, so it’s a dog-eat-dog environment. The painters are all spraying solvent and constantly lobbying for waterborne, and everyone there calls the front office “Drama Central.”

Imagine "Taxi" meets "Cheers" with a lot of soap opera thrown in. Any of this sound familiar?

It might just work, but getting any TV series greenlit in today’s Hollywood can be difficult, though many of the newer streaming channels---Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Peacock, etc.---are constantly searching for new ideas and hungry for fresh content. Maybe a sitcom about the collision repair industry could be done in an animated series, like "Family Guy" or "The Simpsons"? In 2007, a production company created a series, "American Body Shop," for a one-season run of nine episodes. The storyline featured Desert Body & Custom, an auto body shop in Phoenix, AZ, described on IMDb as “the professional home for a bunch of twisted (and bent and sometimes, smashed) characters, including Sam, the owner; Rob, a technician whose solutions are usually much more complicated than any problem; Johnny, a displaced (and very kinky) Brooklynite; Tim, who has a penchant for inappropriate pranks; Luis, a Peruvian immigrant who feigns a lack of English to mask a mysterious personality; and Denise, the harried receptionist who can barely tolerate her coworkers.”

In one of the first episodes, the shop’s owner, Sam, decides to sell the business and pursue his dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail. In another one, the shop fails an EPA inspection and is threatened with a potential shutdown.

Eventually, poor ratings shut this series down, even though it had some excellent acting, notably from Nick Offerman, who went on to fame starring in "Parks & Recreation." The creator, Sam Greene, broke all the rules by filming the pilot and then sending it around to the networks, which rarely works. But in this case, it did---at least for one season.

Body shops have appeared in a lot of movies. In most cases, nefarious and highly illegal things happen there. There were body shops in "The Wolf of Wall Street," "Mad Max" (“You bend it, we mend it.”), "Corvette Summer" and "Christine"---I almost forgot Big Pussy had a shop in "The Sopranos." In the Canadian series, "The Trailer Park Boys," the main characters start a body shop, Success Auto Body & Repair, in an episode titled “Countdown to Liquor Day.” After being released from prison, the boys start a body shop, figuring they learned collision repair while in prison. But, as we all know, it’s not that easy and the Trailer Park Boys failed terribly.

Film producer Jose Herrera of Mio Productions in Silicon Valley has an impressive resume in film that includes producing award-winning films. He believes a body shop would be an outstanding setting for either a reality show or a sitcom, and that’s why he is working on a screenplay and a treatment for a dramatic series.

“The environment in a busy body shop, with a whole slew of characters who all have their own agendas, is perfect for TV," Herrera said. "The David vs. Goliath relationship between the insurance companies and the collision repair industry is ideal for the screen because every protagonist needs at least one villain. Then, of course, you have the customers, each with their own backstory as well.”

Herrera knows he wants to depict a body shop as accurately as he can, so he started hanging out in shops until the pandemic hit.

“I want to pick up the vibe and meet these people. Every shop needs that one old technician who is fighting new technology and another younger one who is excited about doing things a little more out-of-the-box," Herrera said. "New technology has changed the industry on many levels and a lot of shops are struggling to catch up, so that is another angle we want to include in both of our concepts.”

Has Herrera thought of any particular actors or actresses to be cast in his proposed series?

“We won’t have a huge budget, so we will probably be going with some new, unproven people,” he said. “In a perfect world, I’d love to have someone like Matt Damon or Matthew McConaughey as the shop owner, Bill Hader or Jim Carrey as technicians, Steve Buscemi as the painter and Melissa McCarthy running the front office. That would be awesome!”

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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