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STUDIO: History Channel
RATED: Not Rated (I would rate it G for general audiences)
RUNNING TIME: 6 hours 16 minutes
Two nerds root through your grandma’s house and get rich.
Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz
Two dudes drive around the Midwest in a van, but instead of solving mysteries, they root through piles of junk looking for antique pretty-much-anything. They make corny (and I mean fucking corny) jokes, they are suffocatingly polite to everybody they meet (including asking every old person if they are a veteran and then saying ‘thank you’), and they haggle on every last dollar, from trying to get ancient rusty oil cans for five bucks each instead of ten to shaving a few bucks off the price of a glow-in-the-dark Creature From The Black Lagoon figure.
I’ll be the first to admit I thought the concept of this show was stupid and that the hosts were annoying as hell. But once I sat down and watched this whole set, I had mostly converted. The real star of the show is the weird shit they find. If you are not into weird shit, then you might not be interested. They find a cast iron racist caricature, a gigantic cowboy boot, and a John Deere sign from when the deer logo had three legs instead of four. They investigate a strange hanging object in a barn and discover that it is a long forgotten ham. Soon after, they discover they are walking on-top of other similarly zombified hams. Alright I’m hooked.
Their business is called Antique Archaeology but that name is kinda stupid and misleading. If it’s old and can be cleaned up and put in your house, they will buy it and then clean it up and then sell it you. Sometimes it’s old toys, or a stuffed pony, or an old motorcycle dealership sign, or even a giant metal arrow. I don’t think they really try to create any trends. They know what people like, and they buy that stuff. It might boggle your mind that somebody would want an enormous bubble gum machine from the 70’s but these guys probably already have a buyer lined up in their head when they set eyes on that glorious monstrosity.
I’m from California, so until I watched this program, I was unfamiliar with the concept of ‘outbuildings’. Evidently on large properties, in addition to the buildings set aside for various generations to live and eat in, they are numerous ‘outbuildings’ designated for the storage of decades worth of garbage. If you live like that in the suburbs or the city, you end up on “Hoarders” but if you live in the country and have a large enough property to keep the stuff separated from your living quarters, then you end up on this show and might make a pretty penny.
A common recurrence on this show if for relatives to be selling the collections of their dearly departed loved ones. Thankfully this never comes across as opportunistic or distasteful. When your grandparents bequeath you a few acres of crap, I think you’re entitled to sell the lion’s share of it. Some of the people they buy from are fellow pickers however, which can mean they are either shrewd or crazy. If they are savvy they might demand high prices on everything just hoping for a bite and if they’re crazy they damned high prices on everything because they can’t bare to part with any of their beloved possessions, even if they take up a 4-story abandoned drugstore.
Frank and Mike have their very own Oracle, a woman who calls them up from a desk with a computer and gives them all the information they need even though she never goes anywhere. This Oracle is named Danielle, and instead of a wheelchair she has tattoos and punk rock t-shirts. She usually hands out their assignments over the phone and the beginning of each episode, and our dynamic junk-gathering duo gently teases her so much (in that girls-are-gross sort of way) that it’s not so surprising that if you google ‘American Pickers’ the word ‘gay’ comes up immediately afterwards. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The psychological aspect at play here is fascinating to me, especially since it’s underplayed. They explore the vast collection warehouse of one dead man, along with his grandson and his widow who look roughly the same age. Although they aren’t for sale, the pickers are given a tour of the man’s collection of woodworking tools. Saws, lathes, bevels, hand-crank drills and thousands of other tools neatly line the walls of these stretching rooms. But I really became interested when his widow made an offhand comment that he never used or even knew how to use the tools. Can you imagine someone with thousands of, say, video games neatly organized by year and system filling an entire room without ever having played any of them?
Since you’re on the internet you must know that cynicism is cheap, easy, and popular these days, which makes it all the more impressive to see genuine irony-free enthusiasm, especially for something that seems so silly at first, like buying garbage from befuddled rednecks. If you can get over being too cool for school, you will begin to begrudgingly accept Mike and Frank and you will enjoy this show.
This set includes the following eight episodes:
- “Art of the Deal” – The guys buy a 1950 Studebaker, and hang out with NASCAR champ Ryan Newman.
- “Buddy’s Booby Trap” -The guys pick alongside a dog, some ladies, and then another lady.
- “Gordon’s Gold Mine” -The guys meet a father and son picking team, check out a ton of vintage coke merchandise, and buy a creepy clown vending machine and an antique grip tester arcade game.
- “Smooth Operators” -The guys scour acres of rare motorcycle parts, and another lot full of vintage advertising posters, but they seem most excited about about buying a phone booth.
- “Getting the Boot” -The guys buy an enormous cowboy boot they find precariously roped up in the rafters of a decaying barn.
- “Easy Riders” -The guys bicker about slow picking VS fast picking before buying a sexy hula girl lamp, a Kawasaki motorcycle dealership sign, and a Harley-Davidson Knucklehead motorcycle.
- “Psychic Pickings” -The guys challenge Danielle to sell the 1950 Studebaker from the first episode while they consider buying an antique violin-playing robot.
- “One Pony Town” – The guys visit a taxidermy enthusiast with so many terrifying stuffed animals that his neighbors nicknamed him ‘ the spooky collector’.
The picture and sound are acceptable. Many of the sound effects and musical cues are recognizably stock. The DVD comes with a flier plugging the tie-in book.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars