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LA Ink - The Complete Season One DVD Review - -

Feature 10
Video 9.0
Audio 8.0
Special Features 1.0
Total 9.5
Distributor: Manga
Running Time: 1140 Minutes
Reviewer: Simon Black


LA Ink - The Complete Season One

The first thing tattooist Kat Von D did after her ignoble departure from Miami Ink was to head back to her beloved Los Angeles and open up a rival studio, wrangling her own Travel and Lifestyle Channel series in the process. 

Actually, the first thing she did was lose 30 pounds or so – she’s markedly more svelte than she was during the year she spent in Miami.  The second thing she did was divorce her diminutive dirtbag hick of a husband, whose pot bellied toothpick-sucking ways caused no end of consternation in my household as my flatmates continually screamed at the screen ‘But why would she marry him, for fuck’s sake?’

The third thing she did – allegedly – was send Ami James, the Jewish owner of Miami Ink with whom she frequently butted heads, a publicity shot adorned with a swastika, a flaming Star of David and the words ‘Burn in Hell Jewbag.’  Though she would later vehemently deny the charge, Miami Ink’s Chris Garver, formerly a close friend of Von D’s, told TMZ she handed him the note personally, and a handwriting analysis concluded with 99% certainty the writing was in fact that of the hotheaded Von D. 

At any rate TLC decided to stand by their newly TV-skinny starlet, and LA Ink opens with Kat in the process of building her dream studio and hunting for the perfect artists with which to fill it. 

In the former regard things don’t go entirely according to plan, with her builders taking substantially longer to realise Von D’s vision than scheduled and throwing a few spanners in the works in the process, but when it comes time to lure the ideal tattooists into her glossy Hollywood web Kat knows exactly what she’s doing. 

Joining Von D are Chicago-based artists Hannah Aitchison and Kim Saigh, both highly skilled in a variety of pin-ups and specialty designs, particularly Aitchison, whose colour work is, without hyperbole, some of the finest in the world.  The sole male of the crew is the highly respected Corey Miller, known, with good reason, as ‘the Godfather of black and grey.’  Also along for the ride are Kat’s good friend Pixie, who eagle-eyed viewers may remember from an episode of Miami Ink in which she had a variety of colourful foodstuffs like cupcakes and lollipops tattooed on her ribs. 

The almost all-girl atmosphere of LA Ink marks it as something of a rarity in the tattoo world, and the series certainly proves the polar opposite of Miami Ink in this and several other regards.  For one thing the budget appears significant higher, and everything from the title sequence to the studio itself is infinitely ritzier than it was on Miami.  The storylines are also more substantial, the settings more varied and the characters much more rounded than was previously the case.  This was evidently at the insistence of Von D, who thought the manner in which the four artists of Miami Ink kept their private lives cloistered from viewers was the primary deficiency of the show (‘Boring’ was her exact description).  At any rate it seems to have worked.  LA Ink consistently rated higher than its predecessor, is more dramatic, more interesting and much less repetitive. 

It also provides a more honest reflection of its central character, who isn’t afraid to let viewers in under the surface, as it were.  From her distinctive Los Angeles vernacular (sample dialogue: ‘Kim Saigh is this rad tattoo artist who would totally vibe with LA.  She’s this laid back chick who’s really into yoga, which is cool’) to her no-bullshit approach to her working and personal lives, Von D is refreshingly devoid of pretence.  The show is actually an interesting dissection of the struggles and pitfalls of owning a business in your 20s – though not everyone will have celebrity clients and the might of a cable TV station behind them, every fledgling entrepreneur needs to deal with overheads, staffing problems, tardy tradesmen, troublesome customers and the like.  Added to that the fact that some of the best tattoo artists in the world are here gathered under one roof, the designs are more complex and visually arresting than ever and there isn’t so much as a koi fish in sight, and you’ve got the makings of a pretty damn perfect reality show. 

The Other Stuff

LA Ink also fixes the principal technical deficiency which plagued its predeccessor on DVD, namely a shimmery and frequently rather soft transfer.  This time around picture quality is pristine, the image is sharp and vibrant throughout and the sound quality is top notch too, with a strong, no nonsense DD 2.0 proving more than adequate.  Once again there are no real special features of note, but with a running time of 19 hours spread over 11 discs there’s little chance The Complete Season One will leave you feeling short changed.  It’s great stuff, from the lavish tattoo-themed foldout packaging to the artistry inherent in its 26 episodes, and a must for body art enthusiasts and lovers of top notch lifestyle television alike.


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