An obvious and unimaginatively conceived but still entertaining spin-off of Pawn Stars, itself a high-concept reworking of earlier shows like Antiques Roadshow, Cajun Pawn Stars is self-explanatory in the extreme. The program seems to have been spurred both by the ongoing success of the Las Vegas-set Pawn Stars and reality shows set in the Deep South, like the History Channel's Swamp People.
Not much needs to be said. If you enjoy Pawn Stars, as this reviewer does, chances are good you'll like its Cajun-flavored spin-off, too. (However, technically the shop exists outside of Acadiana, i.e., Cajun territory.) The program, at least in the this modest, eight-episode set of first season episodes, extravagantly overdoses on the local color, with more regional stereotypes than you can shake a mint julep at.
(Season One is also relative, considering that it debuted early this year yet somehow is now beginning its third season this September.)
The no-frills DVD, distributed by New Video, is properly presented in 16:9 enhanced widescreen, but has no extra features.
The program is set at the Silver Dollar Pawn & Jewelry Center in Alexandria, Louisiana and has no connection, familial or otherwise, to the Vegas-set series. The shop is owned by Jimmie "Big Daddy" DeRamus, whose hairstyle and laid-back manner reminds one more of an old school country barber than the shrewd wheeler-and-dealer of some pretty pricy merchandise. In lesser roles are Jimmie's wife, Peggy, kid brother Johnnie (because of the age difference, he's often mistaken for Jimmie's son), and daughter Tammie. Cajun Pawn Stars is less reliant on outsiders in the appraisal of items, as the family frequently turns to specialized employees like gun expert Gary Ermatinger.
The format is otherwise identical to Pawn Stars. Carefully pre-screened customers, often locals well known to the Silver Dollar staff, bring in unique and sometimes valuable and/or oddball or worthless items to pawn or sell, if the price is right. Many of the items in these early episodes are so spectacularly fascinating I wouldn't be surprised if they had been there before, brought back and had their transactions restaged for the cameras. It's hard to believe customers strolling in with such unique items every day.
They include such fascinating artifacts as the only extant copy of Jerry Lee Lewis's first and heretofore unknown recording; extremely rare $5,000 and $10,000 bills; a virtually pristine and complete 19th century military field surgeon's field kit; Civil War diaries; and an alleged strand of Abraham Lincoln's hair.
The items, rather than the show's stars, make Cajun Pawn Stars worth watching. While the Vegas Pawn Stars are broadly if self-consciously amusing, their Cajun counterparts are merely neighborly and polite, haggling over the price of a pack of mules with all the geniality of Sheriff Andy Taylor. As mentioned above, attempts at local color - "What's for supper tonight, gator or raccoon?" - are overdone.
Video & Audio
Cajun Pawn Stars - Season One is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen with 16:9 enhancement, in a transfer up to contemporary television standards, as is its 2.0 Dolby Stereo. This release includes subtitle options in both English and Spanish. The set is composed of eight 22-minute episodes on a single disc. No Extra Features.
If you like Pawn Stars... Recommended.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes film history books, DVD and Blu-ray audio commentaries and special features. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.