Pawn Stars: Season 1 (2009)

DVD Cover (A&E Home Video)
Genres: Candid Reality Show, Reality Show
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Movie Connections:
Pawn Stars
> Pawn Stars: Season 1 (2009)
> Pawn Stars: Season 2 (2009)

7.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: July 30, 2011
Pawn Stars is one of those weird little shows that I never really expected to sit through an entire season of. I caught a few episodes while hanging out with a couple of buddies, and I thought it was a decent show: it was a great "background" show for our bullshit session and we even talked about various aspects of it, but it wasn't something that totally blew me away and made me rush out to buy the DVD set. However, I happened to see that the show recently turned up on Netflix's streaming service, so I decided to sit through another couple of episodes. Before you know it, my old lady and I had sat through the entire first season.

For those that don't know, Pawn Stars is a reality show that takes place inside a high-end pawn shop in Las Vegas. By "high-end", I mean that they do more than dabble in stolen watches and broken guitars - they also deal in historical artifacts, antique weaponry, vintage cars, and various other things of that nature. The store is run by Rick Harrison, his son Corey, and Rick's father Richard "The Old Man" Harrison, with Corey's friend "Chumlee" stepping in to help out from time to time. That's the extent of the show: these people run the store, and customers come in to either pawn or sell their merchandise. The staff occasionally calls in some experts to verify that the customer's goods are legit and to get a price estimate, and then they haggle on a price. Sometimes a deal is made and sometimes it's not, but it's fun to watch either way.

Part of the introductory video for each episode has Rick saying that "you never know what is going to come through that door", and that's what makes the show entertaining. You never know whether a customer is going to bring in an antique musket, a rusty Coke machine, confederate money, a guitar signed by Chuck Berry, or even a freaking airplane. Each transaction has two, sometimes three different angles: we see the staff member on duty talking and haggling with the customer, we see the staff member alone discussing why he does or does not want the item in question, and occasionally, we see an expert come in to look at the item. These experts will take a look at the item and talk about why the item is or is not important, what its place in history is, and most importantly, how much it is worth.

Now, this idea works out, but the formula does get a bit tiresome if you're watching the episodes back to back. You see, each transaction works a little something like this: the customer will bring in an item and tell the staff a little something about it, and occasionally, an expert will come in to talk about it as well. Then, the haggling begins, and it always goes the same way. The staff will ask how much the customer wants for it, they will shout out something like "five billion dollars!", the staff will laugh and offer them two bucks, and they will then either reach a compromise or the customer will walk away. I realize that this is sort of how haggling works and that haggling is important to the pawn business, but anyone who watches more than a couple of episodes at once will realize how repetitive it gets.

One other thing that sort of irked me about the show was the lack of variety in the items that were sold. You see, it's neat to see somebody bring in antique bayonets, a gun that was used in the Civil War, or a vintage car... the first couple of times you see it. However, these sort of items dominate almost all of the episodes, and I thought it would have been more fun to see some of the more unusual items that come in. For example, one episode features a guy bringing in an Atari system with a bunch of games, while another shows a wife bringing in her husband's collection of Playboy magazines. Still another has a man bringing in a 1981 table-top Pac-Man arcade console, and we even see a boxing championship in the display case. These offbeat items were the highlights of the show for me, but they are usually overshadowed by the other stuff.

I also wasn't a fan of the "reality TV" stuff that was thrown in to spice things up. Now, I realize that the entire show is reality television by default, but it's fun regardless: these guys run a shop and we watch them run said shop, end of story. However, the producers apparently thought that this wasn't enough to sell the show, so a number of the episodes feature silly bets and contests. I want to see neat items, I don't want to see an old man (excuse me, The Old Man) bitch at his grandson about his pants. I want to see haggling, not Rick griping at an employee about being late. The main staff members have charisma and are fun to watch, but the show would work so much better if they stuck to the topic and left the fluff on the cutting room floor.

I realize that I griped about various aspects of the show throughout this review, but I did stick with it for an entire season, so I think it's rather obvious that I did get some enjoyment out of it. I enjoyed the concept, I loved seeing the various items that would come into the store, and the characters were fun to watch in action. However, the show would have been even more enjoyable with a little less "reality" and some more variety in the items that were bought and sold. Here's hoping that season two, which I will be watching, remedies some of these issues. 6/10.
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