Empty10 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8
And so it has come to this: a reality series about meter maids, tow truck drivers, impound lot officials and the parking boot squad. It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to film it. Or so we're led to believe in A&E's "Parking Wars," a decidedly lighthearted look at the verbally abused men and women who labor each day for the Philadelphia Parking Authority -- a thankless task if ever there was one.
The opener accomplishes the nearly impossible by making us care, at least a little, about these folks who make everyone's life a little bit more miserable. If they aren't exactly the embodiment of personality and charm, they make up for it in earnestness and fortitude. There's something so loopy about doing a series focusing on the parking-enforcement community in the first place that it proves slightly mesmerizing in that train-wreck sort of way. There also is an inherent relatability -- who among us can honestly say we haven't been forced to run the parking gestapo gauntlet at least once?
The series focuses the camera on the ticketers walking the beat who do their best to at least be pleasant about it while bringing financial irritation to peoples' lives. One of them, Jeff, boasts about the girl-watching benefit of his occupation, even if some of those females wind up swearing at him. We see him and his ilk verbally accosted and targeted for the occasional vehicular manslaughter attempt. The tow truck drivers practice service with a smile while impounding violating cars, while the booters reveal little-known secrets of their craft. We also get to follow several poor saps as they endure the indignity of impound and its attendant bureaucracy that runs hundreds of dollars and hours of one's life.
The satisfaction of "Parking Wars" primarily stems from the fact that none of these people are us, our empathy the only required investment. It also comes complete with a timely moral: Feed the meter and heed the sign or pay the price. As we've all come to understand the hard way, the only certainties in life are death, taxes and parking tickets.