Several months ago, a couple of friends at work and I were going over some of our favorite television shows that we usually don’t miss, and one of them told me about a show on the History Channel called American Pickers. He was pretty surprised that I had never seen it because it was supposed to be pretty popular and said he never missed it.
I think I miss a lot of decent television shows for two reasons really…
1) I spend entirely too much time on Facebook playing Farm Town.
2) There are too many channels on cable TV. You just don’t have enough available hours in the day to watch all of that TV. Heck, my wife and I haven’t completely caught up on the show 24, and it’s been off the air for awhile now. (I dig Jack Bauer! “Drop your weapon!”)
I usually trust the suggestions of this work friend, so my wife and I decided to check it out. First I watched a couple of episodes online and I have to admit, I was hooked. Then she and I found it on the History Channel and now we rarely ever miss an episode.
So what’s the appeal for us? It certainly isn’t the greed that is promoted. That’s one of the single greatest problems with America today… greed. A lot of people are only out for a quick buck and often leave a wake of used people behind them. The two hosts of the show, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, often high-five, fist bump and giggle like school kids with a snow day over great “picks” they find in old houses, sheds, buildings and storage units. With a great deal of skill, they haggle with the owners of old antiques to get the best price possible so they can re-sell any of the items they find at a profit. Now while most would agree that those are just good business principles to follow, sometimes I feel that they take advantage of people who either need some money for other expenses or simply do not understand the significance of the treasure that they possess. To me, that’s wrong. But to Mike and Frank’s credit, I did see an episode where they purchased some old, hand-painted, sideshow banners from a man who was trying to renovate an old amusement park. They took them to New York to have them appraised and sold them for a sizable profit. Normally, it would have been smiles and high-fives, but in this episode they drove all the way back to the man they bought the banners from and gave him half of the profit they had made. Pretty decent of them.
The appeal of the show, as I see it, is the items that they find and where they find them. Mike and Frank know their stuff when it comes to old, rusty things that most of us would throw away. If they don’t know, they usually have an expert friend who does know. They find all of these small slices of history in places where the majority of us wouldn’t think to look or to ask about. They have the bold characteristics of any good salesmen to sweet talk themselves onto the property of just about anyone, anywhere to dig for treasure buried under mounds and mounds of nothing. The History Channel, along with Mike and Frank, take the time to explain some of the history behind some of the items they find. I think that makes the show very rich, much like watching a show about divers finding treasures in the wreckage of a sunken ship and then telling you the history of the items they find.
A second draw for the show is the interesting people that they sweet talk out of “picks”. Most carry a history or story behind each item Mike and Frank buys from them, which adds another rich layer of the American experience over the last hundred years or more onto the whole “picking” practice. Whether it’s an old, long-bearded hermit out in the middle of nowhere with an obscure, ancient motorcycle frame or an older adult child wanting Frank and Mike to clean out an old shed that used to belong to their deceased father, you can bet for sure there is an interesting American ready to tell you a really good, old story. They even “picked” for none other than Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, and his wife in an episode! And who says there isn’t any quality television these days?!
Just like every other successful show, “Pickers” is spawning similar shows on other cable networks, but none have the dynamics and chemistry that Frank, Mike, and Danielle have. None of the others shows have a Frank Fritz, whose jaw drops open at the sight of an old motor oil can. No other show has a Mike Wolfe, who has a distinct fetish for old bicycles and motorcycles and gets giddy at the sight of even a small part from one. No other show has a Danielle… tattoos and gothy cuteness, always looking for a pay raise from the two guys on the planet who are least likely to give one. Not to mention the even wider cast of Americans in the most out-of-the-way places who have some of the coolest historical items for the team to pick. The History Channel couldn’t have “picked” a better show to have on Monday nights!
You can find out more on the History Channel’s website, or the website for Antique Archaeology, the team’s official business website. This is not a paid endorsement for the show, but if Frank and Mike are reading this, I would appreciate it if you could “pick” me some old Star Wars toys. Just saying.