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'American Pickers': Five Reasons to Watch

by Chris Jordan, posted Aug 29th 2010 6:00PM
You meet the darndest people on the History Channel hit 'American Pickers.'

Take Hobo Jack, a collector -- or hoarder, if you will -- whom 'AP' hosts Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz visited during the Aug. 16 episode of the show. Jack lives a reclusive lifestyle in southern Illinois on a spread of land overflowing with things he's collected over a span of 60 years.

There's a lot of Victorian era statuary on his sprawling property, which is overgrown with weeds. "I want to build a Victorian mansion," said Jack, who has a long gray beard, a plaid shirt and an acoustic guitar. "I'm offended by the appearance of modernity.''

'American Pickers' follows Wolfe and Fritz as they buy antiques and collectibles from private homes then sell their loot for profit.

Wolfe and Fritz, who are based in Iowa, wound up buying a 1910 motorcycle and an early V-8 twin motor from Jack for $9,000. The guys respect their customers and appreciate the historical value of what they trade in, but it's the middle American types like Hobo Jack who are a big part of the charm of 'History Pickers.' The show, which airs at 9PM on Mondays, is a surprise ratings hit -- the "Hobo Jack" episode landed 4.69 million viewers, making it the 11th most popular show on cable.

Though there are things we'd change about 'Pickers' -- there's a striking lack of diversity, for one thing -- but here's our take on why 'Pickers' is pickin' up the ratings:

It's about real people -- 'American Pickers' is one of the few remaining places -- perhaps the local news being the other -- where a viewer can watch real people being real. Granted, the Hobo Jacks of the show are eccentric, but they're certainly without pretension or artifice. Wolfe, Fritz and a small production crew find genuine people in remote places far from any casting agent's office. They're often a little screwy, but that's the fun of it. You're certainly not going to see them on another reality show next week.

It's a celebration of rural America -- They guys have a surefire method for finding places to pick. They look for "no above-ground pool, no brand new satellite dish, no swing set, no brand new truck, the yard not mowed, no new landscaping and there's tarp on the roof." Far from the manicured appearance of the suburban America that dominates reality TV, 'Pickers' goes for the moldy underbelly of America, the rural byways and highways. It's an exotic world of eccentrics and oddballs, and in many ways it's foreign to viewers.

It's scary -- Mike and Frank were met by one gentleman in the first season who said "You kind of interrupted me; you're kind of disturbing me," before flinging the guys' flier at them. There hasn't been any violence on Pickers so far, but the show can certainly be scary in a 'Deliverance' kind of way.

Scary pickin'

It's a positive view of hoarding -- Hoarders have been taking it on the chin lately. There's 'Hoarders' on A&E, 'Hoarding: Buried Alive' on TLC, 'Clean House' on the Style Network and 'Confessions: Animal Hoarding' on Animal Planet: all negative portrayals. 'American Pickers' is about finding hoarders and then combing through all their stuff, looking for what's valuable. Mike and Frank pay a fair price for what they find, then make plans to come back and go through the stuff again to find what they missed. Sounds like a win-win situation to us. On 'American Pickers,' hoarders are not called hoarders, they're called keepers of the treasure.

It's patriotic -- There's one common element to all the things of value Mike and Frank find on 'American Pickers': It's all made in America. That means we have to start manufacturing things in America again so 50 years from now, future generations can experience the joy of 'American Pickers.'

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Jason Surber

I agree totally, this show focuses on Rural America for the most part.. I love the show, it grew on me. I didn't like it at first I couldn't see the point in it, but it is about the people they meet, and Kymminy Cricket, had to say that you are wrong, but you are wrong. If they didn't care about giving people a good price would they have taken the amusement park clown half of what they made off the tapestries they bought off him? And on top of that its a business, if you are going to resell something, and you pay what it is worth retail, why sell it because you won't make money, thusly ending the business of selling said object. Just saying. Working at DISH Network I usually end up missing the live airing of the show and was relegated to watching the DVR the next day and have to listen to my roomate tell me all about it before then, so I bought a ling adapter to hook up to my DISH receiver, and it allows me to stream the live tv feed to my phone, or laptop, with no delay, no waiting till the next day, so during my lunch I can still catch one of the best shows on TV.

February 21 2011 at 6:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kymminy Crikket

These guys lowball the ignorant and think its funny.
Most of the people have no clue what the items are worth and by the looks of it (not to mention how hard the bad economy has hit all of us) could use a handout. I just dont enjoy seeing these two snobs undercut good american people. If they had any integrity they would be honest about the resale value on the big tickets items and at least let the seller base his/her decision on that...

August 30 2010 at 3:16 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kymminy Crikket's comment

I disagree. It seems to me that the Pickers try to give a relatively fair price for what they buy. I have even seen Mike pay more for an item than what the owner asked for it, telling them that it was worth more than their asking price.
The bottom line is that these guys are business men and they want to buy low and sell high. I have seen them make a lot more money on an item than they expected, but on the other hand, I have also seen them lose money on a deal. Often its hard to know the actual value of something because there are just so many variables and it also depends on being able to find the right customer for a particular item. Granted, Mike and Frank normally know more about the things they are trying to buy than the owner does, but ultimately, the owner of the item has the final say, they can take the deal or not. There is also value to having hard cash in hand now, as opposed to having to spend a lot of time and effort searching for the best possible price for something. On a recent episode, they guys had an expert appraise a bunch of pottery they had purchased. The expert said they could get up to $4000 for the whole collection, but he offered them much less than that figure. The guys took the deal because the figure the expert offered gave them a good profit on their investment and they themselves didnt have the contacts or the time to try for the highest possible price. So, it goes both ways. Thats business.

August 31 2010 at 10:35 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Your comment "It's patriotic -- There's one common element to all the things of value Mike and Frank find on 'American Pickers': It's all made in America. That means we have to start manufacturing things in America again so 50 years from now, future generations can experience the joy of 'American Pickers.'"

On almost every show they find something of value made outside the US.
Though much of what they find is indeed US made, it was a generalized comment that suggests something that isn't so.

What's patriotic about the show,is the respect and support the two show toward the collectors validating their contributions to society over their lifetimes , and their open show of respect to any and all Veterans they encounter.

August 29 2010 at 10:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
5 replies to wulfn1's comment
John F.C. Taylor

I am usually against reality shows. I consider them to be just about the biggest waste of TV air time ever. American Pickers is one of the few that I will make an exception for.

August 29 2010 at 7:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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