As part of a new group of shows that attempt to take the core concept of "Antiques Roadshow" and spin it for a new and wider audience, "American Pickers" is a pleasant change in that it hits the road and ventures across rural America in the search for rare items. That's not, however, to say that the series isn't without its share of flaws.
The series stars the Laurel and Hardy pairing of Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz (who find a Laurel & Hardy promotional piece at one point and make a few jokes about the similarities), who run the antique store Antique Archeology in Le Claire, IA. While they are from the Midwest, they often head across the country in an attempt to dig up antiques from just about anywhere. They're aided by Danielle, who researches leads and generally gets dumped on (for no apparent reason other than to create some sort of attempt at humor or drama) by the two main stars.
"Pickers" does venture into rural areas around the country, both to people's homes that invite them there - and occasionally they knock on people's doors unexpectedly. What they find is often astonishing - treasures discarded in everything from people's storage sheds to old rooms overloaded with collections (such as one room that has an astonishing array of projectors and other film memorabilia.) One minor issue is that a lot of the "picked" items are signs: while historic signs are certainly in demand, they are the focus of these episodes a bit too often.
That's not the show's main issue, though. The main issue are the two hosts, especially Mike: the co-host's excitement feels forced at times (there's playing things up for the cameras, then there's a over-the-top level beyond that that more closely resembles bad acting.) Both Mike and Frank chatter constantly, and a fairly large amount of their banter is talking to talk - it's not funny or useful.
This is particularly an issue with Mike, who can't go two minutes without coming up with some irritatingly goofy way to describe something. If there was a drinking game for "American Pickers" where the players had to take a drink every time Mike says something pointless along the lines of "This is like a jungle gym for pickin'!", the game wouldn't last very long.
As for information, the two co-hosts of "Auction Hunters" provide more useful information about the items they come across, and neither offer information on the level of "Pawn Stars", which still is far in the lead in this genre in terms of providing a balance of entertainment and education. All of these shows give me fond memories of the wonderfully quiet, delightfully simple, drama-free "Cash in the Attic" (not the remake, the original BBC version.)
Mike and Frank talk about "bringing these treasures out into the open", but they're doing it for a profit first and foremost. Still, I do give the series credit for focusing on rural America (which, contrary to popular belief, does still exist - thankfully.)
Some of "Pickers" screams "filler": I really don't care that one of them likes "The Hills", or want to hear them debate whether to listen to Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga. It's not funny, and neither conversation seems even slightly organic to these two. Additionally, Mike's comparison of some of a collection in one episode to "a Beyonce video" is particularly ridiculous, random and unnecessary.
That's really the core problem of this series: it features wonderful people who live a quiet, simpler life, but rather than emphasizing that, it has to be yappy, zippy and have two hosts that border on being obnoxious at times. This series would be immensely improved by letting an emotional moment or a moment of surprise when a find comes along sit in the air for a minute without having to have Mike hyperactively comment on it like a child who's just downed a dozen Pixie Sticks.
I really hope that future seasons tone down the hosts a bit and focus more on the stories of the people they meet and the history of the items, which - and I'll emphasize it again - are usually fascinating. What's a little upsetting is the amount of time spent in some of the places - the amount of STUFF in some of these collections would take days (and in some cases probably weeks) to go through, and yet we see very little as a few items are picked up and discussed. Rather than watching Mike and Frank as they look through the items, maybe have the camera look through some of the piles and then join back with the two after they've found items they want.
Mike and Frank's journey through rural (and sometimes very rural) America to uncover treasures and find out more about the people who own them is a wonderful task - it's an incredible thing to be able to drive across the country and find amazing antiques that have been stored away for ages. I wish they would occasionally be quiet and sit and appreciate it for two seconds.
This set offers 8 episodes, which is disappointing: just offer fans full seasons rather than these "volumes" of random episodes.
Art of the Deal
Buddy's Booby Trap
Gordon's Gold Mine
Getting the Boot
One Pony Town
VIDEO: 1.78:1 widescreen. The presentation looks fairly good, with images that are usually at least crisp. Some mild shimmer is occasionally seen, but doesn't cause too great a distraction. Colors appear warm and rich, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: Clear, clean-sounding 2.0 audio. Dialogue and occasional outdoor ambience both sound crisp and well-recorded.
EXTRAS: Zip, which is really too bad - I have to imagine there's at least some deleted footage that could have been included.
Final Thoughts: There's a great concept at the core of "Pickers", and half a great show. The people who are visited often seem like wonderful people who have interesting stories and amazing collections. There's enough to like here to make it watchable and get a *light* recommendation, especially if one can manage to tune out the lead duo. The show's hosts need to dial it down and the producers need to focus the series more on what makes it great: the items and the people Frank and Mike meet.
It's disappointing that fans again get stuck having to buy these volumes of episodes rather than season sets. The DVD only offers 8 episodes, and surprisingly, no extras.