"Pawn Stars" certainly has become a huge hit for the History Channel, not only collecting solid ratings for the network, but spawning a series of shows both entertaining ("Counting Cars", "American Restoration") and amusing but uninspired ("Cajun Pawn Stars").
"Pawn" follows the Harrison family - Richard ("Old Man") Harrison, Rick Harrison, Corey Harrison. They're joined by Corey's childhood friend, Chumlee, and other cast, er - employees. The series follows the employees as they encounter customers who bring in rare and exotic (and sometimes weird) items to sell. When the employees run into difficulty regarding knowledge of an item, they call on a series of experts - in the case of cars, they call on Danny Koker, of the Vegas auto restoration shop, "Count's Kustoms".
The series is at a bit of a disadvantage compared to the other shows due to the narrow focus, but still comes across as a light, entertaining and occasionally quite informative reality series. In the instance of both "American Restoration" and "Count's Kustoms", one of the most impressive aspects of the series is the sourcing - it's remarkable how the shop manages to find rare parts for equally rare cars.
Of course - whether emphasized for effect or not - there's often deadlines for the cars to be completed that the gang at the shop finds themselves bumping right up against. One of the more interesting elements of the series - and one that's slightly "American Pickers" in a way - is the leads. Danny and his crew occasionally find jobs in unexpected places, offering owners quick cash for their rides that become the shop's next major project. No engine, no problem - they'll handle that later. Otherwise, projects walk in the front door.
"Counting Cars" offers up another similarly rag-tag bunch of supporting players who work in the shop. I'll say I didn't even expect to like this show - I've always been impressed with Danny's work on "Pawn Stars", but it seemed like another instance of a cable network trying to strip mine a franchise ("Pawn Stars" in this case) for every last bit of of possible material and I wasn't sure there was going to be enough there there.
I actually found the series to be a pleasant surprise - it's zippy, brisk and well-structured, with episodes generally offering a nice balance of work done in the shop and following after the crew as they search for new projects and parts. In one episode, Danny thinks outside the box at a car show - rather than shopping at the show, he browses through the parking lot in order to find potential projects from car collectors looking to sell. The jobs done are also just remarkable as they do exceptional work, including some scrappy projects that end up slick and shiny.
Horny Mike discovers a coveted bike frame on private property and convinces Danny to risk it all by sneaking inside.
Searching for Soul
Danny is commissioned by Barry White's estate to find and restore the legendary singer's Stutz IV Porte.
Danny takes on his most emotional project yet after spotting a 70 Dodge Challenger on a private road. Later, Kevin s lunch is interrupted by a rare 63 Corvette, while Horny Mike and Roli get lost cruising in a clunker.
Kevin and Horny Mike make an unauthorized purchase, forcing Danny to teach them a valuable lesson. Later, Danny runs into trouble himself after acquiring a Chevelle the shop doesn't have room for.
Danny and Kevin find themselves in hot water when a motorcycle pullover goes south.
Danny and Shannon honor fallen troops with a custom patriotic motorcycle. Later, Danny and Kevin push the limit to acquire a `71 Monte Carlo, and then have a tough decision to make when a heart-broken customer can't pay up.
Danny is visited by legendary Mistress of the Dark, Elvira, whose famous Thunderbird is in need of some mechanical magic. Then the shop faces a major loss when a custom Ford F100 isn't ready in time for the New Jersey couple that traveled cross country to pick it up.
Danny may be in over his head when he takes on his first boat. Will he be able to tread through the rough waters or will he be forced to abandon ship?
Back in the Wind
Tasked with building a custom bike for a disabled man, Danny and his team must figure out a way to tackle a tricky transformation. And later, Danny mortgages the shop on a 60 Coupe deVille then takes a major risk when he tries to model a 70s era El Camino after a super charged custom Corvette.
Trouble finds Danny when he makes a reckless buy at an auction. Will a hunk of junk force him to finally admit defeat?
Scott bugs out when he learns Danny's invested in a vintage dune buggy. Will Danny prove Scott wrong and flip this sand shredder for some serious dough? Later, a 1931 Ford Model A Cabriolet presents problems as the crew tries to salvage its rare DuVall windshield.
Get revved up when Danny spots a killer 1967 Pontiac GTO at one of the biggest car shows in Vegas. Will this timeless muscle car burn rubber again, or will major problems bring the project to a screeching halt?
McQueen for a Day
Pawn Stars Rick Harrison shows up to give the guys of Count s Kustoms the project of a lifetime. Can they take a beat up 68 Mustang Fastback and turn it into Steve McQueen's old "Bullitt" ride within Rick s modest budget?
Video/Audio: The series is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality isn't as slick and shiny as the cars the group works on, but it's more than pleasing. The picture looks crisp and clean, with good detail and only a couple of slight moments of softness. No shimmering or other faults were spotted and colors looked pretty bright and vivid. Audio was fine, with crisp dialogue but not a great deal of activity.
Extras: Deleted scenes - some enjoyable footage, but one of the reasons the show works as well as it does is because the brisk clip it moves at.
Final Thoughts: "Counting Cars" is speedy, fun and entertaining. I didn't know how well it would work, but the show's a great mix of following the crew as they work inside and outside their Vegas shop. Recommended.