The television crossover is a ratings booster that became common in the 1970s and continues to strain our credulity to this day. The agents from Warehouse 13 show up in Eureka. Grey’s Anatomy plays doctor with Private Practice. Sometimes Angel was incomprehensible if you hadn’t watched Buffy The Vampire Slayer. As far as I’m concerned, the television crossover reached its zenith when The Beverly Hillbillies went to Hooterville at Thanksgiving to see characters from Green Acres and Petticoat Junction (the whole Petticoat Junction/Beverly Hillbillies connection was further muddied by the fact that Bea Benaderet played two different characters on each series).
I wouldn’t have thought it possible for reality television shows to experience the disease that is Television Crossover, but American Pickers proved me wrong last night with a flurry of crossovers that included virtually every History Channel program with the exception of that thing that Larry The Cable Guy does and I don’t watch because I am allergic to the words “Get ‘Er Done” strung together in that order.
We got crossover right from the get-go last night on American Pickers. Rick Harrison, the owner of the biggest pawn shop in Las Vegas and the star of The History Channel’s hit show Pawn Stars, called up Danielle, the Pickers’ under-appreciated office girl. A note on Danielle: Danielle is probably the best thing about that show, and we don’t see nearly enough of her. Danielle is smart and sexy and the perfect fantasy girlfriend for virtually all of us because her large and numerous tattoos scream ‘I am very liberal and have virtually no self restraint.”
So Rick calls up Danielle because he wants to get his father, The Old Man, a 1957 Chevy 150, a classic, blumpy car that was the darling of both law enforcement and bootleggers before aerodynamics and fuel efficiency were invented. This rings my bullshit bell immediately. We watch a parade of experts troop through Rick’s shop every week, authenticating and appraising items. Historical documents, toys, pirate treasure, and especially anything with a motor, Rick has friends who specialize in all of that stuff. Rick is the quintessential Vegas guy. He’s virtually a mobster. If he doesn’t have it, he knows someone who does. But here he is pretending that he is like the rest of us who need people to get things for us. Okay. I ignore my bell. The show has just begun, after all.
Danielle calls Frank and Mike, who are on the road in Arizona, supposedly searching for antiques to buy and then resell at a profit. Cut to Frank and Mike driving their picker van through an endless dessert. Bullshit bell number two. Frank and Mike obviously aren’t who they once were. The Frank and Mike who at one time actually made a living picking antiques would never have purposefully driven far, far from home to an area with a tee tiny population to fish for antiques. The bottom line dictates that time in the van is time wasted and money spent. But here Frank and Mike are, butts numb, who knows how many miles from spying their next victims. Danielle tells them what Rick needs (and he needs it in three days) and nobody says, “No can do, unless we get a television miracle.” Of course we know there is going to be a television miracle.
There is no rush to find the car for Rick because the Miracle Fairy is working on it, so the boys stop at the property of a man who has many wonderful old items and a little flooding problem. Boy, does he have a flooding problem. He tells Mike and Frank that his antiques are being ruined by flooding. A pile of vintage John Deere tractors that have been washed into a big old mud hill proves his point. The man wants to sell his things before more are ruined. I wonder why he doesn’t move. I wonder harder when a wide shot of his property shows us that he built in a dried up (until it rains) river bed. But, I guess that people like this are part of the wonderful crazy quilt that makes up the History Channel world.
Mike and Frank are delighted to see that this modern day Job has quite a few smaller items which he could easily move out of the way of the flooding but for some reason has not. His family ran illegal casinos in Kentucky until they were forced by The Law to move to Vegas and find something possibly illegal to do there. This man worked in a casino when he was fourteen years old. He has old gambling items, which are highly sought after by collectors. Being an old gambler, he’s no fool (except for the not moving away from floods thing) and he knows very well the retail prices of his vintage gambling items, but he sells them to Frank and Mike for a little less because he’s on television.
Frank and Mike drive off into the desert again, bragging their obligatory picker brags. “I paid $2,000 for this item, and I bet I can sell it for a couple hundred bucks over what I paid.” These people are terrible at business math, and I hope they are grateful that the History Channel saved their business for them. Burning up gas, eating in restaurants, sleeping in hotels…forget about paying Danielle, Mike and Frank aren’t going to make nearly enough money picking to cover their expenses. It makes me uncomfortable because I know good and well that there are equally math impaired viewers all over the country saying, “Lookie there, Darleen Jo! They made a cool two hundred bucks for doing jack shit! I’m gonna go pickin’ this very weekend!”
After all of the glory drips off of them, Mike and Frank remember that they have to look for a car for Rick. Mike uses his phone to find a junk yard, and they stop there. The junk yard is huge. The junk yard is endless. The junk yard is in the middle of the desert, so any cars over twenty years old were naturally sandblasted into dust years ago. Mike and Frank aren’t met at the entrance by an attack dog, so they proceed to poke around by themselves. Where I come from, this is a very good way to get shot, and it’s a very bad example for all of their wanna-be picker viewers, in my personal opinion.
Frank and Mike finally break down and speak to the owner of the junk yard, who, I assume, doesn’t shoot them because they have a television crew with them. He naturally tells them that he doesn’t have any cars over twenty years old. He does, however, tell them about an antique store that is going out of business. So off Mike and Frank go to dicker with yet another sharpie who is going to sell them things for more or less retail.
The most notable thing about the antique store stop is the old Colonel Sanders weather vane that Mike falls in love with. He wants it. He harasses the store owner about it. He begs and pleads. He ultimately pays $300 for it. Now, I would have wanted it, too. Except this Colonel has been standing out in the desert weather for decades. He has been sandblasted. And sandblasted. And sandblasted. The only paint left on him is a dim smear of his bespeckled, chicken frying face. I estimate that Mike is going to make negative $300 profit on his weather vane, because one in far better condition recently sold on eBay for $160, including shipping.
Danielle calls as the boys roar away with their worthless weather vane. She has found a Chevy for Rick’s Old Man. A car fanatic might be willing to sell it so he can put the money into fixing up a 1966 Mustang for his wife. The Miracle Fairy has struck.
Frank and Mike rush to the car fanatic’s house. We never hear how far they had to rush, but I assume it was considerable distance, since there are never any shots of them driving past homes in this desert episode.
The ’57 Chevy they find when they get there is truly a piece of crap. I can nearly smell the aromas of mildew and mouse shit through the broken windows. Frank and Mike proceed to dicker with the man, and I am finally flabbergasted. THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, THEY PAY. There is no motor. There is no interior. There is only the shell of a ’57 Chevy, and I can tell from even my small television screen that a lot of that is rusted out. Are they just stupid? Do they assume that Pawn Star Rick is stupid? I honestly think it’s a little of both.
So the boys pay to have the rusty shell towed to Vegas, where they meet with Rick from Pawn Stars and Rick Dale from American Restoration. It’s a television Beverly Hillbilly-like crossover trifecta! The characters from three shows on one show! At least one of these shows must be in ratings trouble.
Rick and Rick show their excitement and appreciation of the Pickers’ hard work by repeated use of the word “turd.” They show mastery of the word “turd” by combining it with the word “bucket,” which I feel might be giving the car a little more credit than it deserves because a bucket can hold water. American Restoration Rick whispers that the restoration of Turd Bucket will cost $70,000. Pawn Stars Rick stiffens up and offers The American Pickers less than they paid for Turd Bucket before towing. After some dickering, a deal is reached that affords the Pickers a grand and change of profit.
It isn’t fun to watch the close of the deal. It’s like watching a rich man reluctantly pay the town drunk for doing a shitty job of mowing his lawn when he didn’t ask the town drunk to mow his lawn. The grand and change the boys made from the deal feels more like a bribe to get them to go away than a commission payment. Thanks to the American Pickers, Rick is paying $77,000 for a car restoration when he probably could have gotten an already restored car for that or less and not had to sweat the deadline of the Old Man’s birthday. No wonder Rick looked like he needed to barf through this entire show.
Stay tuned to the History Channel. I hear that the Swamp People are going to visit the Ice Road Truckers next week.
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