Photo: Jordin Althaus / Oxygen; Screen: CMT.com

Battle Of The Tattoo Competition Shows

Tat spat! Best Ink vs. Tattoo Titans: which one should you make permanent?

I guess every network's required to have a tattoo show of some kind, whether it's the "parade of bad art" genre or a "may the best inker win" contest. CMT has now entered the fray with Tattoo Titans, which premieres tonight at 11 PM ET. Which one do you want on your bicep?

The Host

Best Ink's Pete Wentz isn't given much to do besides that non-starter "let's get the ink rolling, and the machines" whatever catchphrase. Aaaaand the ladies' sweatshirts he seems to keep showing up in. It feels like his role is getting steadily smaller, which is too bad, as he's a charming guy, not wooden.

Tattoo Titans's Jayme Foxx (no relation) (hee) is like Stacy Keibler on Supermarket Superstar: competent, but pretty much just a newsreader.

Winner: tie

The Set-Up

Tattoo Titans pits four artists against each other in three challenges, with one artist eliminated after each challenge; the prize for coming out on top is ten grand.

Best Ink-ers can win a lot more -- a hundred grand and a cover story in a tattoo mag -- but it's a few months away from home and family, and longer odds.

Best Ink challenges try to address a range of art styles and skin requests, but often the week's "theme" can feel forced; the show's most problematic aspect is the Flash Challenge, which can earn the artists some quick money but eats a ton of time on bullshitty art projects like painted selfies and sand art on car windshields. Titans sticks to tattooing with three challenges each time: skins' choice, artists' choice, and judges' choice. Good idea in theory, but in practice they're pretty much all producers' choice. On the other hand, there's basically no time for drama; it's all drawing and tattooing.

It's apples and pin-ups, really, but for focusing on the work and not the workers as much…

Winner: Tattoo Titans

The Contestants

Far lower douche quotient on Tattoo Titans, and even if you're four-for-fucknuts, they're all gone after an hour and you're on to the next set.

I should say that the Inkers aren't that douchey. There's always That One Woman, but compared to some reality contestants, they're generally pretty okay.

But I like churn.

Winner: Tattoo Titans

The Judges

If Best Ink ever decides to boot the Flash Challenges, it could easily fill the time with the judges' panel. Hannah Aitchison and Sabina Kelley are on point; insightful for those of us with zeeee-ro visual instinct; and don't grub for promo soundbites. Joe Capobianco does do that, sometimes, but to his credit he 1) obviously dislikes it and only does it at producer insistence and 2) is naturally grumpy, but also fair and insightful.

Tattoo Titans, oh dear. Well, Amy Dumas and Bernadette Macias have great things to say, and make good use of the little John Madden-y Telestrater the Titans get for judging panel (I was all set to make fun of that, but it's effective). Ami James, late of Miami Ink, is a mess: he jumps up the ass of one artist when she's already behind, basically telling her he doesn't believe she can draw hands with only three years' experience, in front of her skin, which is a dick move; he pronounces the word "anime" "anna-mee"; he compares a finger in one tattoo's female figure to "a stick from Harry Potter," and takes pauses so long that even the editing can't save him. I'm sure he's very experienced, but he's terrible TV.

Winner: Best Ink.

The Victor: It's a lot closer than it might look; that James guy is really bad. But if you can only watch one? Actually, the hell with it. Watch Best Ink, starting every episode after the second ad break…but Tattoo Titans is good in a different way, so if you like a one-and-done contest better or you can't deal with Pete Wentz borrowing Dorrit Bradshaw's tops, go for it.