Judge Mike Rubino can't wait for a wave of notary public reality shows.
"It would have to be an offer that would skin every cat in the alley."
The original Pawn Stars was a runaway success because it combined the edutainment aspect of appraisal shows (Antiques Roadshow) with the occasionally seedy world of pawn brokerage. With Cajun Pawn Stars, The History Channel hopes to recapture the magic in the swamps of Louisiana.
Facts of the Case
Jimmie "Big Daddy" Deramus owns the Silver Dollar Pawn and Jewelry Center in Louisiana. He, along with his daughter Tammie and his son Johnnie, trade in rare antiques, historical artifacts, lethal weapons, and livestock. Each episode, the pawnbrokers meet with customers looking to sell their wares for top dollar—and learn a little along the way.
Since the rise of Pawn Stars, there have been a handful of shows to follow the appraisal and barter formula: AMC has Comic Book Men, ABC has Ball Boys, TruTV has Hardcore Pawn—that's not even counting the History Channel spin-offs American Restoration and Counting Cars. The pawn tree bears many fruit, and I, like millions of other Americans, can't get enough of its vintage nectar. So for better or worse, Cajun Pawn Stars isn't all that different.
The fact that Cajun Pawn Stars follows the same format as its Las Vegas cousin (right down to the commercial breaks with trivia questions) is advantageous. For starters, the show's familiar pacing and educational content makes it effortlessly entertaining. You can tune in, learn something about an old gun or a coin, have some laughs, and not even blink an eye. It's bite-sized history created for a generation of TV viewers who can't sit still an entire documentary on the evolution of a blunderbuss. The show also retains some of the tension and suspense inherent in the bartering process. While it may not be as intense as Vegas (more on that), Jimmy Deramus and his band of experts are still shrewd pawnbrokers out to make bank.
I don't know how much of this show is real and how much is slick pseudo-reality television, but Cajun Pawn Stars can come across as even more staged than its colleagues. Much of that has to do with the show's recurring characters. Comic relief customers, like a redneck fellow named Joker, show up fairly often to try and make a quick buck. Even if they are real Louisiana residents, it seems like everyone's got a colloquialism or idiom to blurt out. Even though the theatrics leave me questioning the show's authenticity, I found the characters endearing and fun in a lot of ways; that's great, because Big Daddy and his family don't approach the show with a whole lot of charisma.
The show's only problem is its cast. Unlike Rick Harris, Old Man, Chumlee, and Big Hoss, the Deramus family feels safe and friendly. Sure there's Tammie, the "sassy" one, but generally everyone is really nice. If there's any meaningful way in which these shows should be compared, it's the likability of the people running the store. In the Silver Dollar Pawn & Jewelry Center, the customers are more colorful and entertaining than the people running it—which means that the history lessons we're receiving are a little more dry than they should be. It's great that these are solid folks running a legitimate business, but this kind of show benefits from a little more conflict.
Cajun Pawn Stars: Season One is another average, bare-bones package from The History Channel. Eight episodes, all with top-notch production values and a clean video transfer, and that's about it.
The first season of Cajun Pawn Stars is a lot like CSI: Miami or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: it translates a tried-and-true formula to a new location with a different cast. Whether or not you enjoy it depends on how much emphasis you place on the cast versus the edutainment content—and whether or not you can appreciate the beauty of a slow, tangy Louisiana accent haggling over the price of four goats.
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Studio: History Channel
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