Personally, I do not watch much reality television. Most “realities” they present is quite boring or scripted. However, as of late I have started to watch reality shows that I have dubbed, “One Man’s Junk is another Man’s Treasure.” My two favorites are Storage Wars and Pawn Stars. The idea that just because one person might think it is a piece of crap, the next might think it is worth a ton of money. Today’s review is the second volume of American Pickers. Will it be another diamond in the rough?
So, as I asked myself when I unwrapped this sucker, what exactly is American Pickers about? Well, there are these two guys, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz who roam the United States in search of knick knacks, car parts, collectibles, anything that will bring them money. A picker. Their method is somewhat unorthodox as they actually visit people’s homes, storage sheds, and any other place where somebody have stored their collection.
Sometimes it is totally random or freestyle as they like to call it. They might see a car in the shed and a few outlying houses. This prompts them to start knocking on doors and see if the owners are willing to sell them anything. Sometimes, they will get a lead from the beautiful Danielle (who runs their shop called Antique Archaeology) who does a fantastic job of calling locales and finding out who has the best stuff available. Regardless of method, the guys find a little of everything.
A few examples. In Gordon’s Gold Mine, the men find themselves in Pickens County, South Carolina. Seems oddly appropriate. The first place they go is to visit a teenage boy named Nathan who takes after his father Dakota in the art of picking. They even started out dumpster diving like many pickers do. Mike and Frank are able to get a few items off the two for a reasonable price. The highlight is a vending machine with a clown head that spits out wrapped devil babies inside. Creepy.
Then it is off to another lead from Danielle that puts them in the hands of Jonathan and Mary whose uncle recently died and left them a lot of stuff. Inside the many scattered outbuildings, they pick up a few items such as an old school bell, church lamps and stoneware pottery. The final part of the episode finds the men at a concrete plant where Gordon has stored away an amazing collection that he started when he was 5 (he’s now well over 80). He proves more difficult but the two score some chewing gun dispensers.
In Smooth Operators, Mike and Frank do a little door to door which starts with Boo and his wife to be, Deana. Boo just happens to be a fan of Nascar so you can imagine some of items to be had there. Then it is off to Billy who has a shop completely full of new old stock (old, unopened dealer inventory) of Harley Davidson parts. This is the crème de la crème of motorcycle inventory and they are able to score a few choice pickings.
Psychic Pickers is also particularly interesting since the first adventure lands them at a steel plant owned by Sam and Stan, a father/son combination. Once they figure out what the pickers are looking for, they are able to settle on everything from oscillating fan to a string of old PO Boxes (personally on the latter, I would have paid more than they sold it for). Then it is off to some freestyle picking where they school a family who is looking to go to auction soon. The two lend their knowledge and pick up some good karma.
Then it is off to a man who has bought an old rundown police station in Missouri (yes you read that correctly) and used it store his collection. Words do not do this place justice. Despite the collector’s age, he proves to be the hardest to convince and the pickers can only get him to sell a few items. These consist of an old style Stop sign, Oil lamp and a slot machine. Needless to say, Mike and Frank are not going to make much profit off this haul.
In between all of these pickings, the two do speak to their co-worker Danielle over the cell phone. She updates them with leads and they often challenge her to tasks like selling an old rusted Studebaker (still trying to figure out how they sold that rusted out door stop for $3,500). However, something I did not enjoy was that they are very reluctant to take her out on any pickings. In fact, they even poke fun at her and make some derogatory comments before admitting that they couldn’t do this without her.
I did do some research though and it would appear (though I have not seen the episode) but later on in the second season (after this volume), they do allow her to go on a picking. So generous guys. Anyway, that aside, this show leaves me confused at times. They drive around this old Mercedes van that looks like it has a lot of space but yet they pick out the oddest things to offer to buy.
I assume they have limited spending cash but they go through mountains of stuff and somehow manage to pick two completely forgettable items. It is baffling at times. Often, they will find a piece of history but then completely blow by it with a paragraph on the screen. The show certainly feels rushed at points. However, despite all of that, the truth is the show is still fun and they really do find some awesome stuff.
The video is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The show looks pretty good as A&E runs most of their shows in high definition widescreen allowing for a good bit of detail. Also, you get to see all of the crap up close and sometimes you just want to yell, “HEY MIKE, GO OVER THERE!” They hardly ever go look at the things we as the viewer are curious about. Good presentation overall.
For the audio portion, we get a 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo track in English. As wonderful as the video is, the volume is not much to speak of. It is 100% dialog (unless you count a barn door closing as a sound) and your only difficulty of listening to it will be limited by some of the harsh southern accents. In that sense, it is perfectly manageable. But considering they are out in the country constantly, you would think you might hear cows or something.
As a blu-ray, dvd, video game, book, action figure, graphic novel, and record album collector (the last one for decoration purposes), I know what it is like to be a collector. While, I unload some of my things (mostly dvds currently), I wonder if someday people like Mike and Frank might come knocking on my door. Well, if they do they will probably buy an old stuffed animal in the back of my closet that I have not touched in years but that is beside the point.
American Pickers is a fun show despite a few flaws. But the guys do find a bit of history almost everywhere they go, a slice of Americana if you will. Danielle proves to be the unsung heroine of the show by giving them leads and running their store while they spend their time in barns and closed up commercial buildings finding odds and ends. Maybe someday I will visit their store in LeClaire, Iowa. This gets a slight recommendation, mostly for content. It is a good dose of fun, especially for the treasure collector in all of us.