TruTV is looking for the next great automotive designer on its new reality competition series Motor City Masters, and it's enlisted automotive journalist Jean Jennings to help in the search. We spoke with Jean on Monday to ask her why judging a reality show intrigued her, and what she wants audiences to take away from it.
"Television shows about cars are few and far between, and most of them aren’t very good," she told us. "A reality show format intrigued me, because it had the chance to attract a wider audience other than the usual gearheads. I like the Motor City Masters concept for several reasons. I like Project Runway, [which is] a Bunim/Murray production, as this [is]. Also, the central focus of my thirty-plus years in the automotive business has been design and travel adventure."
How does she see her role on the show? "I’m the judge who is representing the public," Jean explained. "I’m looking for beauty, proportion, cohesiveness, something fresh, and adherence to the requirements of the challenge."
"You don’t have to know how to design a car to know what you like when you look at it," she continued. "You should either be intrigued, delighted, or feel an emotional attraction. That is the function of great design. The bonus here is watching it happen before your eyes, from the inside out."
Though we obviously can't spoil the details of the competition, Jean did give us a few teases. "I was surprised at the wide variance of talent. I was delighted at the human pathos," she said. "Everyone who watches will choose designers they like or loathe. Trust me, there’s plenty of both traits to go around!"
Outside of judging Motor City Masters, Jean has plenty of other car-related duties on her plate. "My life right now is expanding the content, the reach, and the extensions of the Jean Knows Cars brand," she explained. "I have [been on] dozens of once-on-a-lifetime automotive adventures, from racing across the Alps in an MGB with one of the greatest drivers of all time, Stirling Moss, to sailing off a cliff in a rally car with the Pikes Peak champion, Nobuhiro Tajima.
"My first favorite was when I was in first grade and my late dad, the editor of Automotive News, took some of my many brothers and me for a ride after dinner in a Studebaker Avanti, and put us in a ditch. My last great drive was the rare opportunity to drive a number of 1920's era open-wheel Indy cars on the oldest racetrack in America, the one hundred-plus-year-old Milwaukee Mile."
"Outside of everything automotive, I like to read James Lee Burke novels; I get subscriptions to a dozen magazines including Garden and Gun and The Smithsonian. I am an avid gardener and have three dogs, including a Grand Champion Chesapeake Bay retriever who was ranked number one in the country earlier this year, and a stray we picked up in a ditch three years ago in Mississippi. Hunting, fishing, dogs, reading, and gardening pretty much sum it up!"
Motor City Masters premieres tonight at 10 PM ET/PT; you can watch a sneak peek of the show by checking out the video embedded with this article.