I’ve become a fan of the new show “American Pickers” on The History Channel. After only three episodes, I hope it has a long run.
The show follows two guys that travel around the country looking for junk. Or junque, as the case may be. Sort of like a poor man’s “Antiques Road Show”, Antique Archeology proprietors Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz literally drive around and find people who have enormous collections of stuff and try to buy the things they find most interesting. From the only Vespa Apé likely to be found in the country (it didn’t run) to an antique kiddie car carnival ride, or old oil cans (Frank likes those) to old bikes (Mike) … pretty much anything you might have seen in a TGI Friday’s or Chili’s or half the other chain restaurants in the country … not to mention a few stand-alones.
But just as interesting as the two principals in the show are the people from whom they buy the stuff. The show is far more about people than it is about stuff, and that’s what makes it so compelling. Everywhere in the U.S., there are people who begin amassing stuff, can’t let go of the stuff, don’t know what to do with the stuff, build buildings or rent storage in order to not have to part with their stuff … and somewhere there’s somebody who’s willing to pay money … for some of it.
Not everything has value, of course. In that, the show is predictable. But as with on Antique’s Road Show, where sometimes when the host said “This is worth umpty-squat huge amount of money”, and you always wanted the person who brought the item to say “SOLD!!!”, well sometimes on American Pickers, they do.
Or more likely, they say “I want more than that,” and the negotiations commence.
Now, only three episodes in, they haven’t shown a situation where the guys paid more than they should have for an item, and maybe they rarely do. But it’s got to have happened at some point. They get it home and call their “guy” who tells them “dude, you got hosed.” But it hasn’t happened on camera yet. And I suppose doing it for a living, they’ve gotten to the point where they can spot the good stuff and know pretty much what the market will bear. Update: We watched an episode the other day in which Mike agreed to pay $60 for a bike that was under a pile of brush, and when they got it out, they determined it was pretty well worthless. But he made good on his deal, and lost the money.
But I keep coming back to the people and places. The folks are usually older, living in rural places far off the Interstate highways. One of the people they visited had an actual White Castle store sitting next to his driveway, and had collected several old buildings.
But there was also the woman who had house full of trinkets, some of which still had price tags on them. It wasn’t until they got to the attic that they found anything they thought had value, but the lady was very nice.
Most Americans, it seems, have at least some penchant for pack-rattery. I know we’ve got more stuff crammed into this house than any two couples should have, and it’s really difficult to part with any of it. Sadder still, we both come by it naturally. My mom had an attic full (which we finally had to go through and purge when she moved to Florida), and her dad built a warehouse.
This is about as real as reality TV can be. Just putting things like this on TV takes an element of the reality out of them, but this comes pretty close. Like “Dirty Jobs” it’s as much about the people as it is about the host. But where Mike Rowe is a television professional, Mike Wolfe is an antiques dealer. That he comes across well on television gets him a show. Nothing wrong with being a television professional. Heck, I’m one, currently between gigs.
In any event, if you like antiques, and not the Victorian furniture kind … or you like interesting, real people … or both, you might like “American Pickers.” It’s the kind of show I think about when I think about reality TV.