My wife likes to call it aimless watching and eagerly looks forward to every single episode of Pawn Stars. For the uninitiated, Pawn Stars is a (surprisingly long running) straight-up American-style reality series about a guy called Rick Harrison and his pawn shop, “Gold & Silver”, in Las Vegas. It is one of the channel History’s most watched TV-shows ever, and I can see why. Well, no, wait. There are multiple reasons to love (binge-)watching Rick, his father (lovingly called Grumpy or Old Man) and his son (Big Hoss? Why?).
Let’s break that down.
The Fake Reason
We love a good bargain hunt. You probably know it by now, but I’m a retro gamer and like buying the odd physical copies of gb(c/a) games. When on flea markets (gotta get there early, really!), spotting the sharks that rip you off from the unaware grandparents that simply want to get rid of stuff is an art. Sadly, we only seem to bump into the former. Anyway, besides the occasional fountain pen I happily overpay for—that of course turned out to be made in China—we usually refrain from overindulging. So, it’s basically like window shopping when watching series like this, right?
Similarly, Storage Wars also knows to tickle our fancy. Especially that time when they pulled out hundreds and hundreds of valuable comic books and collectibles—the lot turned out to be worth around
$400k—ka-tsjing! Too bad that later seasons mostly focus on the drama and the posturing. We Belgians do shake our heads when they quickly assess the value of the locker after buying them. They’re like: old chair, sure,
$40, hey a nice looking fridge, gotta be able to get
$300 for it. We’re like: what, old chair? Sure,
$2. That stinky fridge with the stains?
$30? I guess it’s an American thing. We do love you, Barry Weiss!
So, the reason: old stuff that turns out to be worth something. All stuff, no fluff. Glorious.
The Real Reason
If you look closer, Rick and his team are having fun. Yes, that’s right: while they are working. Sure, the shop is open 24/7 and we as viewers sometimes are told that working night shifts is extremely boring. Sure, it’s all on camera and we have no idea what is fake and what is real. But man, they are loving it. And I love watching that, wishing I had as much fun doing what I do. How about:
- That time when they pulled out their guns in the firing range and the Old Man won but they didn’t tell him?
- That time when Chumlee, the goofiest employee and best friend of Corey, Rick’s son, accidentally broke a precious vase in the storage room while imitating Star Trek fighter moves?
- That time when Chumlee—again—wins a shooting contest with a hand cannon, after which he says “That’s right suckers, that’s Chumalicious for ya!" They shoot stuff up at multiple occasions. It’s an American show, after all.
- That time when a guy comes in with something to sell, and they all have their feet up on the table, sigh very loud, say aight and get to work?
Rick might sometimes drive a hard bargain, but I’m sure he has a heart of gold. His laugh is very infectious. Oh, and the guy actually respects his peers. For example, he regularly calls in experts to assess an old gun, car, or book. When the assessment is done, he says “You’te the best!" accompanied with a handshake. That might be a silly and redundant gesture, but to me, it means a lot. I’ve worked with many people who do not show this kind of respect, and I’ve heard more than enough sickening stories from my wife working in the lawyer industry, where they would rather stab each other in the back than showing genuine respect.
The Old Man loves his silver but is a bit of a hoarder, and Rick tries to run a business1 so now and then sells a few bars behind his father’s back. As a result, the Old Man relentlessly pursued his beloved but missing silver bar for weeks. They all have a good laugh, and in the end, Rick decides to please his father by pressing special (silver, of course) coins picturing a profile of dad accompanied with the text “In the old man we trust”. His father is moved—although not visibly, the guy is like a statue—and says it’s nice. Until he realizes that was not all of the silver, and tells Rick to stop selling his metals. The episode ends with him shouting “Now go fetch me another bar. Bye!".
Priceless. All fluff and no stuff.