The big draw
Pawnstars maintains its
IF limitation is the best form of flattery, executive producer of History Channel’s The Pawn Stars, Mary Donahue, must be extremely flattered indeed.
There are at least 19 knock-off versions of Pawn Stars, said Donahue with much pride. “I”m hoping the original will be the best and I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” she said.
“It’s such fun, so joyous. It’s a beautiful blend of family business and objects from all over the world,” she replied when asked about her take on why the Pawn Stars series worked so well that it is now the top show on History Channel.
Another factor is the location – a few kilometres away from the glitzy Las Vegas Strip – of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop on which the series is based. “The variety of people coming to Vegas is greater than in any other place in America and Vegas is all about making deals,” she said.
The state of the American economy is another factor – perhaps more important than others – since people still reeling from the shock of home seizures and loss of jobs want to believe in a windfall.
“In a recession most people want to believe that they can stumble on something that can change their lives.
“It is something universal ... the belief that somewhere in the garage or the attic or your grandmother’s closet there’s something that can make you rich, and even if it does not make you rich, it will bring sunshine in a dark day,” she said.
Three weeks after she started work on the show she searched her entire house looking for that priceless something, but unfortunately she found nothing of value.
Also, the alchemy of the four people in the pawn shop – The Old Man, Rick Harrison, Corey Harrison and Austin Russell (Chumlee) – is just funny.
“The show captures the dynamics of the four. They clearly love each other, they tease each other but they work together every day. They are real people.
“They make fun of Chumlee, but actually he knows more about every version of video games and he knows more about Atari than Atari does about itself.”
The variety of objects being pawned also adds to the attraction of the show.
When Europeans left the Continent in the early part of last century for a new life in the United States, they brought along their valuables and heirlooms.
That’s why there’s a rich variety of objects that end up in the pawn shop and Vegas being what it is, the out-of-luck gamblers would pawn things of value like their rings and watches.
In recent years, Vegas became a magnet for retirees and the large number of senior folks who brought along their collections of all sorts of things.
The experts who turn up to examine the objects also add to the success of the show. In fact, one expert – Rick Dale – has his own spin-off show called American Restoration, which is another successful programme on History Channel.
To keep Pawn Stars fresh, Donahue said new experts will be seen on show.
Donahue seemed to have a high regard for Rick.
“He’s one of the most natural purveyors of information we have come across. He has a genuine interest in antiques and he reads about everything. Once we had dinner in New York and he said he spent eight solid hours in the Metropolitan (Museum of Art).”
Donahue said Pawn Stars is already a big hit in many countries and they want to expand to other parts of the world.
I raised the point that since Pawn Stars is based in Las Vegas, it would not be viable for someone with something valuable from Malaysia or Singapore to fly to Vegas for Rick to appraise it and suggested that History Channel could do a road-show by flying Rick to this part of the world. “That’s an interesting idea. I would love it. “Rick is interested in travel but he doesn’t have much chance to get out,” she said. n Pawn Stars Season 5 airs on Mondays at 10pm on History (Astro Ch 555).