PHILADELPHIA -- The mean streets of the City of Brotherly Love are once again coming to television.
"Wreck Chasers," a reality show about the city's notoriously aggressive tow truck drivers, is shooting and is slated to premiere in late October on TLC.
Production crews are following several drivers with one unidentified Philadelphia towing company, often on nights and weekends when more crashes occur, as they try to beat the competition to wrecks. Filming started in May and is expected to continue until sometime in October, said Jim Kowats, the show's executive producer.
"They're very colorful, they're larger than life, they're very Philly," he said of the show's soon-to-be stars. The city was chosen because of the unusual and competitive nature of its towing businesses, he said.
It's the second series focusing on the daily difficulties for Philadelphia drivers. "Parking Wars," in its third season on the A&E cable network, features Philadelphia Parking Authority employees as they write tickets, clamp yellow locking "boots" to traffic scofflaws' car wheels, take plenty of flak from furious drivers and generally deal with the chaos that comes with trying to park in Philadelphia.
"Wreck Chasers" comes amid renewed scrutiny over Philadelphia's long-criticized tow truck drivers, who police and lawmakers say combatively compete for business as soon as an accident comes across their scanners.
Rival companies getting to a crash simultaneously can resort to blows, or worse.
A driver from J & Son's Towing is accused of shooting a competitor from Mystical Complete Auto Service in the thigh on July 19 because he thought his rival was trying to swoop in on a job, police said. Two days later, 13 cars on the J & Son's lot were torched and Mystical's offices were riddled with six bullets.
TLC had contacted city officials about shooting "Wreck Chasers" weeks earlier, said Sharon Pinkenson of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office.
Kowats said the crew profiled in the show are "dedicated, likable" people who view their work removing wrecks and clearing accident scenes as providing a service that the city doesn't.
They do take it seriously. They're passionate about what they do," he said.
"They see what the ambulance drivers see, what the cops see, the injuries, the fatalities. There's a lot of emotions involved."
Philadelphia's attempts to tame its anarchic wreck chasers have failed to stop the free-for-all.
Two years ago, the city began requiring police to rotate towing jobs among 96 tow companies.
Wreck chasers skirt the system, however, by monitoring police radio and even beating officers to crashes.
After the July shooting, police began using laptop computers in cruisers instead of police radio to report accidents.
Now they believe some of the towing companies are instead monitoring Fire Department radio calls for rescue units being dispatched to crashes.
Councilman Jim Kenney has called for a suspension of the rotation system while the city reviews the licensing status of the 96 companies, including the two involved in what he called a "Wild West shootout."
Numerous complaints or violations have been lodged against 19 companies on the list, Kenney has said, while others are not properly licensed or simply changed names after losing their licenses.
Some wreck chasers also have been accused of signing up unwitting drivers to contracts that commit them to expensive repairs.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Philly's "Wreck Chasers" Coming To TV Soon
Here's the story from The Daily Journal:
Posted by Cyndi Kight, Associate Editor of Towing & Recovery Footnotes at 11:04 AM