Case Number 24028: Small Claims Court


History Channel // 2010 // 336 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // June 24th, 2012

The Charge

History's ratings record-breaker is back for another installment!

The Case

When my grandfather died, he left a collection of guns behind. Reluctant to shoot a weapon that hadn't been cleaned or serviced in some years (my grandfather didn't do much hunting in the last decade of his life) my dad took a rifle to the local gunsmith to have cleaned. When he put the rifle (in a case) on the counter and told the proprietor what he had, my father was immediately offered a thousand dollars sight unseen. We later learned the intact peep sight on the rifle was worth several hundred dollars all by itself to the right collector. This isn't some famous rifle, nor was it a collection piece. Instead, it put food on the table for a family for many years. And yet, it's worth more now than it was when it was made 100 years ago. The fact that even used items can increase in value if they're old enough and of interest to someone seems to be behind the recent rash of reality TV shows focused on finding the worth in junk so many people have lying around. Though it has its charms, American Pickers: Volume 3 doesn't do much to rise above its antique peers.

The basic premise of American Pickers is that Frank and Mike own an antique shop in Iowa. Since not a lot of people die leaving cool antiques to their Iowan relatives, the pair travel throughout America's heartland looking for someone's junk to turn into their gold. This set includes eight episodes from the show's second season on two discs.

There are three basic reasons to watch a show like American Pickers. The first is shock and surprise. There's a certain pleasure in the shock of finding something vintage and worthwhile in an attic or a barn. Similarly, it's fun to watch someone's surprise when they discover that something they've dismissed as garbage turns out to be worth something. To that end, Volume Three offers a number of shocks and pleasant surprises, as Frank and Mike go to some unlikely places (e.g. an amusement park) and find some unlikely stuff (a vintage steam-powered popcorn maker).

The second reason to watch is the inherent education value. When the boys find some rare or unique item, there's an opportunity to explain to the audience what the item is and what it's for (not to mention what it's worth). In this case, Frank and Mike do an okay job giving audiences context for their purchases. However, I'd much rather see input from experts on the various items (something they do on Storage Wars). It would be a stretch to say you won't learn anything from these episodes, but there were numerous opportunities where we could have learned more.

The final reason to watch is personality. Pretty much all these shows have the same basic premise: get some people together and have them buy stuff to sell. What distinguishes American Pickers is the whole "road movie" vibe. Frank and Mike get to travel a lot, which gives them numerous opportunities to switch things up, going different places and buying different things. It doesn't leave them at the mercy of empty storage lockers or people's pawning needs. The other aspect of the show -- and a dealbreaker for most -- is the interaction of its characters. There are either love 'em or hate 'em guys, especially when they're together. I can't say that I found them compelling, and their attempts at humor often fell flat. Of course there are those who are going to love the pair, and for them these episodes are long on personality.

Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer is clean and bright with a decent level of detail. There aren't any serious artifacts or compression problems to worry about either. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix keeps Frank and Mike's banter clear and well-balanced with the show's score and ambient sounds. There are no extras.

The only serious downside to American Pickers: Volume Three is that these eight episodes are from the middle of the second season. Although character development isn't a strong suit of reality TV, there is some attention paid to the changing relationships of the cast, making it really strange that the show was released as a complete first season, but in volumes since. Without knowing whether or not a full season set is on the way, fans will have to hope to catch this set in the bargain bin in case a better version comes along.

American Pickers is a fine antique-oriented reality TV show that overcomes its sometimes annoying hosts to provide decent entertainment for fans of the genre.

The Verdict

Not what I'd normally pick, but Not Guilty.

Review content copyright © 2012 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 82

Perp Profile
Studio: History Channel
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 336 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb

* Official Site