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‘Fat & Furious’: quick out of the gate



Published: Thu, June 26, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

For those who were concerned that “Fat & Furious: Rolling Thunder” would make Youngstown look bad, it’s all good.

The reality show, which premiered Monday on Discovery, follows Tommy Christmas and his crew at Christmas Automotive in Boardman as they acquire dilapidated muscle cars and restore them into drag- racing shape.

The expression “it is what it is” is appropriate here. It’s a reality show. It’s not brain surgery, so don’t overanalyze it.

“Fat & Furious” is actually kind of fun. It’s breezy and has lots of down-home humor as the big dudes — most of them tip the scales at over 300 pounds — rib each other.

The fat jokes are definitely played up, and the crew — particularly Chuck Kountz — seems to have lunch on its mind a lot. But there is a warmth to the camaraderie.

By now everyone knows what to expect with a reality show, and “Fat & Furious” was exactly what I expected. Maybe even a little more, because I found myself inadvertently learning about the interesting world of muscle cars and drag racing.

Most of the first episode took place at the crew’s speed garage, which is in a rural area outside the city, as well as at Quaker City drag strip in Salem. You actually see very little of the area’s landmarks, or anything that would set it apart from any other place in the Midwest, although the “Welcome to Youngstown” sign on I-680 on the South Side did flash by several times.

Judging by the teaser at the end of the episode, the crew will be at Quaker Steak & Lube in Sharon, Pa., next week.

The show’s intro segment lays out the premise. As visions of Youngstown’s post-industrial decline are shown, Christmas says in a voiceover, “In the rust-belt city of Youngstown, Ohio, we don’t have much, but we’ll always have one thing to hang on to” (here, one of the gang asks “donuts?”).

It’s easy to see why the production company found the Christmas crew to be naturals for a reality show.

Episode 1 had two plot lines: the restoration of a Dodge Cornet that cost a whopping $76,000 and didn’t fetch much more than that on the market, and another project in which a muscle car was restored so that it can be passed down to a third-generation racer in a local family.

The show had an exciting finish, with Christmas breaking 11.8 seconds in a quarter-mile run down a drag strip that earned him an additional $5,000.

Also, remind me to never mess with super-strong crew member Steve McGranahan, who is dubbed “the human jack.” In one scene he picked up a transmission and held it in place while Christmas bolted it down.

RED WANTING BLUE STAYS TRUE TO ITSELF

Red Wanting Blue kicked off a 34-city U.S. tour last weekend with two sold-out nights at Musica in Akron.

The Columbus-based road warriors always leave it all on the stage, but still, I was expecting something a little extra at Saturday’s set. Instead, RWB delivered a straight dose of what got them to the next level. In retrospect, it was a fitting way to mark the momentous occasion.

The band usually makes its audience work for an encore of “Venus 55,” and that’s exactly how the set ended.

RWB will be at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights on June 30 and Mr. Smalls in Pittsburgh on Aug. 9. Their new album, “Little America,” will be released Tuesday.

don’t sleep on SLEEPER AGENT

Sleeper Agent, the indie-pop band fronted by vocalist Alex Kandel, a native of Champion, is making waves with its new single, “Waves.”

The band dropped its sophomore album, “About Last Night,” on March 25 and has been touring as part of the Warped Tour, which comes to First Niagara Pavilion on July 15 and Blossom Music Center on July 17.

THE CLARKS PREPARE ALBUM

Pittsburgh’s The Clarks will release their next album, “Feathers & Bones,” on July 8. The band will play at the Mercer Bicentennial Celebration in Mercer, Pa., on July 11 and at Stage AE in Pittsburgh on July 12.

“Feathers & Bones” is the ninth full-length studio album the band has produced in its 28-year career, all while maintaining the same lineup.


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