Let no-one say that we’re not in the age of the scripted reality show. These things are being pumped out in gargantuan numbers these days based around nearly every kind of job you can think of.
The term scripted reality sounds like a television oxymoron. How can something be scripted but still be “reality”? Well the concept is relatively simple. Take something that exists in reality, then film situations that occur in that thing that come about through various means of patience, casting, manipulation or organisation. The events that happen are things that happen day to day in whatever realm the show is based, however the situations surrounding those events are almost always set up by the producers. The concept can work really well (American Pickers, Comic Book Men) or can just create horrible TV that isn’t horrible in a good way (Operation Repo, All Worked Up). The the latter two’s case I think those shows are actually recreations of supposed real events. It’s cringe-worthy regardless.
There are currently two shows airing on 7Mate that fall into the scripted reality box and at first both look as if they are competing for the same audience. I’d like to explore why both shows are great, and why, despite being asked a bunch of times which of the two I prefer, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
The two shows I’m talking about are Pawn Stars and Hardcore Pawn. Both shows take place in US based pawn shops, one based in Detroit (Hardcore) and Las Vegas (Stars). Allow me to summarise both shows.
Set in the gritty 8 Mile area of Detroit, American Jewelry and Loan is run by the take no shit rough and ready Les Gold and his son and daughter, Seth and Ashley. The store is like a gigantic Cash Converters on steroids and they deal in all sorts of goods from the pedestrian bits and pieces of jewelry to the ridiculous. They buy and sell and offer the customers loans on goods. I don’t think I’m being too inaccurate when I saw that the majority of the clientele they get into American Jewelry and Loan are of the African American persuasion. The show focuses on the interactions between the staff and customers during the buying and selling of goods and negotiations on loan amounts. The staff, particularly Les, always has the final say on deals and what things are worth, often to the chagrin of his kids who are constantly bickering over who’s the better wheeler and dealer. The show has a never ending stream of absolutely batshit crazy customers who come in demanding ludicrous amounts of money for goods that are worth much less and then proceed to lose it when the stark reality of what they have is worth sinks in. The customers are never short on a sob story about why they need the money, but it is very rare that such a story goes any way to melting the icy steel heart of Les Gold. Nearly every episode he almost punches on with a customer, has his life threatened by a customer or offends someone in some way, shape or form. Not a lot of time is spent looking at the actual items that are being sold unless it’s something crazy and it seems almost like a secondary point of interest to the interactions between staff and staff and staff and customers. Les Gold is a tough bastard and though he can be a complete prick to not only the customers but his kids as well, I find that I can’t help but like the guy.
Pros: Drama galore, easier characters to care about whether you love or hate them
Cons: Very little attention paid to items, crazy black people freaking out and trying to start fights get a little old after a while
Pawn Stars takes place at World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas. Run by “The Old Man”, aka Richard Harrison, his son and grandson Rick and Corey and Corey’s friend “Chumlee” aka Austin Russell. The store as seen on screen in the show doesn’t appear as big as American Jewelry and Loan, however when it comes to the pawn side of the business they take a much more interested and involved look at what’s coming into the shop. The show, like Hardcore Pawn devotes a fair amount of time to the interactions between the staff at the shop, dealing with family issues and general shop housekeeping, but instead of being completely focused on this like Hardcore is, the show delves a lot deeper into the items being brought in. Instead of just making a call on what something is or what it’s worth like Les does on Hardcore, when items come in to be sold they almost always call in a local expert on that particular type of thing to look at it and give an estimate on it’s value. It has a bit of what makes Antiques Roadshow so cool in that people bring in things that they may not know is worth much, and through investigation and consulting with experts they find out that what they have is actually worth a small fortune. On the flip side, often people come in thinking they have something worth a small fortune, only to find that it’s a piece of crap. I don’t find the cast of characters on Pawn Stars as easy to connect to as those on Hardcore.
Pros: Great focus on the items brought in, lighter atmosphere in the shop
Cons: Characters not as easy to connect with
So when it comes to the war of Pawn reality, I find that I enjoy both shows for different reasons. Hardcore Pawn is great to watch for seeing Les get into arguments and huge amounts of drama. It’s never short of someone going crazy about being offered $20 for something they want $2000 for and tempers are almost always frayed to the point of snapping at the drop of a hat. Pawn Stars on the other hand is great for finding out the history of random items taken into the store and being able to go “wow!” along with the customers when you discover that some shitty looking trinket is worth $10,000.
Like I mentioned at the start, I don’t think you need to decide to watch one or the other. They both co-exist well for me and are both watchable for their own reasons. Check them both out.
Hardcore Pawn is on 7Mate Wednesdays at 8:30pm and Pawn Stars is on the same channel at the same time but on Thursday night. If you tune in on Wednesday night for Hardcore Pawn be sure to stick around after for American Pickers, which will feature in another blog post at some stage because it’s just so rad.