Tattooing is no longer the taboo subject it once was. Indeed, it has become so widespread that you’ll often talk to uninked people who state they don’t want a tattoo because not having one is now more unusual. With big demand needs big supply, but when paying someone to permanently art your body what happens when the artist is not that skilled? Or when your own request comes from poorly judged (and, let’s face it, inebriated) decisions? Well then, you need that fixed.
Originally broadcast on UK channel E4, Tattoo Fixers, like Body Fixers, has graced Netflix with its twin draws of amazing looking artwork and, well, not so amazing looking artwork. The concept of each episode is the same. Some punter walks in through the doors of the crew’s Hackney offices and explains why they want a cover-up tattoo. The story behind their current tattoo is explained (frequently involving alcohol, petulance, stupidity, or a mixture of all) before the offending ink is brandished to the team and the camera. Then the team pitch cover up ideas based on the client’s desires and move to fix the horror show in front of them.
This description really can’t do justice to the sheer car crash value of Tattoo Fixers. These aren’t just bad or slightly askew tattoos. These are monstrosities that almost always make your eyes bug out in shock. A large part of the fun from watching Tattoo Fixers is the sheer disbelief that anyone could end up with THAT on their body. Such failures are frequently offensively crude – it’s hard to erase the image of a rotund gentleman with a tattoo of a naked woman on his stomach that – shall we say ‘inventively’ – incorporates his belly button into her anatomy. “Yeah the wife doesn’t like it,” he sheepishly mutters marking himself down as front runner for the trophy for understatement of the century.
Each episode has you perched on the edge of your seat to glory at the horrific idiocy or misfortune of the customers. Then when you have finished reeling from that the hosts set about working out ways to fix things. Such artists vary over the several seasons of the show but main hosts include Sketch (a sardonic and heavily tattooed guy), Jay Hutton (always good for a comical overreaction and knowing look), receptionist Paisley Billings (the first to call out clients as idiots for what they do to themselves) and Alice Perrin (a woman so spaced out she barely seems to occupy the same time, never mind the same space, as everyone else).
The gang has great chemistry and, whether true or not, all give off the air of having worked together for years. Their banter before, during, and after makes for plenty of entertaining colour between the lines of the main action. Once a customer has picked a new design (and you will see a lot of skulls, all-seeing eyes, and butterflies throughout the course of the show) then it’s time to bring out the slow-motion camera and zoom in on the wincing faces of people getting their fresh tats.
A cursory bit of research will show that the tattoo industry has somewhat of a bee in their bonnet about the depiction of their craft in Tattoo Fixers. Such accusations include: unrealistic expectations of what a cover-up can do; poor artwork (with Sketch disproportionally in the firing line); unhygienic working practices; and plagiarism of designs. There may or may not be any truth to such finger-pointing but in truth, it won’t affect your enjoyment of the show.
The heavily stylised and super convenient format is clearly a TV construct. It’s highly unlikely that Alice, Sketch and Jay would produce such detailed pitch ideas and then clients go straight into getting inked without some off-camera thought process.
As the format formula is so engraved it’s unlikely that you’ll be binging Tattoo Fixers in typical Netflix style. The ideal time to watch is past 11:00pm when you are winding down and getting ready for bed. This is the sort of time where some fool revealing his tattoo of an arrow pointing to his personal exit point is just the sort of ‘oh no he didn’t!’ entertainment your brain craves.
Sure, after a while the “I was drunk in Spain,” stories get repetitive and when you’ve seen a dozen poorly judged bottom tattoos you have arguably seen them all, but Tattoo Fixers scratches that oft-hidden itch in us where you get to point and laugh at some right fools, and then enjoy the frequently gorgeous looking fixes that they usually don’t deserve. And every so often a genuinely sad story will blindside you into shedding tears, gosh darn it.
Words by Mike Record