The global recession and ensuing credit crunch have caused many families to turn to pawn shops to temporarily make ends meet; the growth of reality television shows like History's "Pawn Stars" and TruTV's "Hardcore Pawn" show how the economy has influenced viewers' entertainment preferences. Each show focuses on a family-run pawn shop and offers the perfect mix of gritty truth, historical factoids and unscripted drama.Cast
"Pawn Stars" chronicles the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas. It's run by three generations of Harrisons: Richard "Old Man" Harrison, his son Rick and his grandson Corey. Employee Austin "Chumlee" Russell, Corey's childhood friend, plays the funny man to the Harrison men's acerbic wit.
"Hardcore Pawn" focuses on American Jewelry and Loan in Detroit, which is run by second-generation pawnbroker Les Gold, his son Seth and his daughter Ashley. The shop's security team is also regularly featured, escorting unruly customers and providing color commentary as necessary.Format
Each episode features customers bringing in items to pawn or sell; one of the Harrisons will typically describe the item's historical significance before beginning price negotiations with the customer. If an item is potentially valuable or its authenticity is questionable, Harrison will call in a local expert to examine the item.
Occasionally, some of the Harrisons' purchases require refurbishment or repair. "Pawn Stars" depicts that process as well; the popularity of this segment led to a spin-off show with restorer Rick Dale called "American Restoration."
"Hardcore Pawn" debuted in 2010 and has filmed 51 episodes over five seasons. The 30-minute show has been a runaway hit that continually sets new viewership records for TruTV.
The "Hardcore Pawn" format differs slightly in that it focuses more on the everyday operations of the pawn shop, including business strategies, personnel changes and the drama that happens between item appraisals. In 2010, Les Gold told the Detroit Free Press, "We're a Detroit-made business that represents what pawn shops do." When asked how his show would differ from "Pawn Stars," he indicated that it would focus on "just a wide range of real people who need money."Viewer Hook
History buffs will appreciate the quality of items featured on "Pawn Stars"; even casual viewers will get a kick out of the unusual artifacts and collectibles profiled. The interpersonal relationship between the Harrisons and Chumlee is another draw: Chumlee is often the target of pranks and jokes, which he brushes off with aplomb.
While "Hardcore Pawn" doesn't focus as much on the historical aspect of the items brought in, it offers an unforgettable, gritty glimpse into down-on-their-luck customers. Detroit was hit especially hard by the recession, and it shows in the desperation, frustration and sometimes dangerous nature of the shop's clientele. Other common themes include Les' Detroit pride and the family's close bond; Ashley and Seth's sibling rivalry also plays out in nearly every episode.
Despite the obvious similarities between "Pawn Stars" and "Hardcore Pawn," each has its own quirks -- and target audience -- that ensure both shows can thrive in the same entertainment ecosystem.
- Arts & Entertainment