Tattoo Highway

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Tattoo Highway TV Poster Image
Master inker takes his parlor (and family) on the road.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The series characterizes tattooing as a positive, often spiritual thing. But some of the stories the Pendletons hear deal with heavy topics like the death of loved ones and giving up a child for adoption. Some unusual tattoo practices -- like mixing one man's wife's ashes into the ink used for his tattoo -- are featured.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Pendeltons work hard to be good parents and look at marriage and family as positive things. That said, they have a colorful history and weren't always people who could be considered good examples.


References to "gangster tattoo parlors"; at least one featured parlor is controlled by a gang. Plenty of close-up shots of tattoo needles going into people's skin.


Some people get tattooed in sensitive areas, but breasts, buttocks, etc. are either turned away from the camera or blurred out.


Audible language includes words like "hell," "ass," and "piss." Frequent use of stronger curse words (like "f--k" and "s--t") is bleeped. Some stereotypical terms, like "rednecks."


The series is a promotional vehicle for Pendleton's "Ministry of Ink." The artist often finds clients through his My Space page. Local tattoo parlors are featured throughout the show.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The Pendeltons are recovering alcohol and drug addicts who left Las Vegas to get away from that scene; they often note the importance of staying off of substances. But Thomas sometimes reminisces about his former partying ways, including making drug deals.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this edgy series -- which follows master tattoo artist Thomas Pendelton's travels in his mobile tattoo parlor -- promotes tattooing as both an art form and a spiritual act. Pendleton and his wife are recovering drug addicts, so drug use is frequently discussed, but they're also dedicated parents who believe in family bonds. Expect some strong language ("ass," "piss," and the like are audible, while "f--k" and "s--t" are bleeped); although some people get inked in sensitive areas, no nudity is shown.

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What's the story?

Spun off from the popular tattoo-centric reality show Inked, TATTOO HIGHWAY picks up master inker Thomas Pendelton's story two years after he severed his ties with the Las Vegas Hart and Huntington Tattoo Company. Pendleton and his wife/business partner Monica have transformed a tour bus into a mobile tattoo parlor and are taking their new venture, Ministry of Ink, on the road. As they meet clients around the country, they collect personal stories that reveal the deeper meanings behind the choice to get inked.

Is it any good?

Throughout the series, Pendelton resembles nothing so much as a doctor making house calls, helping clients who see their tattoos as a way of communicating their emotions or as a spiritual release. The trip is also a personal journey for Pendleton, who's trying to reconnect with his art after leaving Las Vegas and taking time off to get clean and sober -- and to settle down and be a good parent.

The show is pretty edgy, and the frequent discussions about drug addiction and Pendelton's difficult childhood make Tattoo Highway an iffy choice for younger kids. And it may not be a great pick for anyone who doesn't want their kids to get tattooed. But Pendleton has an honesty about him that makes him likable, and many of the things he talks about -- including fidelity, parenthood, family, and the importance of staying drug-free -- are positive and heartwarming. Overall, this series shows that while the tattoos may not be for everyone, the stories behind them are often worth listening to.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the "tattoo culture" is depicted on television. What stereotypes are associated with tattoos and body art? Does the media reinforce or undermine those stereotypes?

  • Do you think body art is an art form or just something that people do to look “cool”? How can getting a piece of body art help a person feel better about something or about themselves?

TV details

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