The people who made "Dog the Bounty Hunter" and his family into cable-TV stars are turning their attention to a much tougher crowd: the ticket-writers, booters and tow-truck drivers of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Yesterday, A&E announced the Jan. 8 premiere of "Parking Wars," a 20-episode series that looks at the men and women who, depending on your point of view, either help keep our streets clear or make our lives miserable.
Robert Sharenow, A&E's senior vice president of nonfiction and alternative programming, sees them as "working-class heroes."
"I think a lot of people like to have a very negative view of people who do this job," said Sharenow, but based on what he has seen of the series so far - and a 2003 A&E documentary on Parking Authority employees by the same producers - he considers them "a funny, likable group of people."
Parking Authority spokeswoman Linda Miller said yesterday that A&E crews spent months following some of the authority's 265 ticket-writers, 23 wheel-booters and 60 towers.
Supervisor Sean Pomroy said the crews would show up at morning roll calls on and off from May until November and more or less randomly pick employees to follow. He said he hadn't seen much stage fright among his parking-enforcement officers.
"I think it came pretty naturally to the ones they picked," said Pomroy, who also wrote and produced a hip-hop song about "the people you love to hate" that he said will be used in the series.
Pomroy recalled one incident involving a woman who returned to her car at 17th and Walnut streets to find a ticket written and the officer walking away.
"She started yelling, apparently, and by the time I got there the camera crew was filming, and she'd gotten into her car and was throwing her bag up in front of the camera," Pomroy said. "She didn't want to be on camera."
Most people cooperated, Sharenow said. "Every episode I've seen so far there has been no blurring [of faces]. Everyone has signed the release."
Both Miller and Sharenow said neither the authority nor its employees were paid to participate.
Miller said the authority shows the previous A&E documentary in employee training.
So why Philly?
"There's a certain attitude and way about Philly people that has never really been captured in an ongoing series," said Sharenow, who nevertheless couldn't pinpoint a future "Dog the Bounty Hunter" here.
"I think this is a different kind of show . . . it's very diverse. You have people, different colors, different shapes, different attitudes. I think different viewers are going to be attracted to different people," and though some people will recur, he said, "I don't think we're looking for this to boil down to one meter maid or one booter."
Don't expect the current controversy regarding the salaries of the agency's top managers to make it into "Parking Wars."