Genre Reality television
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 446 (list of episodes)
Networks History, A&E Networks
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 12
Theme song Winning isn't Everything
|Starring Rick HarrisonRichard "Old Man" HarrisonCorey "Big Hoss" HarrisonAustin "Chumlee" Russell|
Spin-offs American Restoration, Counting Cars, Cajun Pawn Stars
Cast Chumlee, Rick Harrison, Corey Harrison, Richard Benjamin Harrison, Craig Gottlieb
Pawn Stars is an American reality television series, shown on History, and produced by Leftfield Pictures. The series is filmed in Las Vegas, Nevada, where it chronicles the daily activities at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, a 24-hour family business opened in 1989 and operated by patriarch Richard "Old Man" Harrison, his son Rick Harrison, Rick's son Corey "Big Hoss" Harrison, and Corey's childhood friend, Austin "Chumlee" Russell. The series, which became the network's highest rated show and the No. 2 reality show behind Jersey Shore, debuted on July 26, 2009.
- Production history and format
- Main shop staff
- Minor shop staff
- Recurring experts
- Celebrity cameo appearances
- US television ratings
- Critical reception
- Awards and honors
- Legal issues
- Spinoffs and similar series by Leftfield
The series depicts the staff's interactions with customers, who bring in a variety of artifacts to sell or pawn, and who are shown haggling over the price and discussing its historical background, with narration provided by either the Harrisons or Chumlee.
The series also follows the interpersonal conflicts among the cast. One reviewer referencing these conflicts described the show as a version of Antiques Roadshow "hijacked by American Chopper's" Teutul family. TV Guide has offered a similar description, calling the show "one part Antiques Roadshow, a pinch of LA Ink and a dash of COPS".
Numerous local experts in a variety of fields also regularly appear to appraise the items being sold or pawned, two of whom have gone on to their own spinoff programs. Antique restorer/metal artist Rick Dale is the star of the series' first spin-off, American Restoration, which premiered in October 2010, and mechanic/auto restoration expert Danny "The Count" Koker stars in the second spinoff, Counting Cars, which debuted August 13, 2012.
Production history and format
Pawn Stars began with Brent Montgomery and Colby Gaines of Leftfield Pictures, who were struck by the array of eclectic and somewhat seedy pawn shops in Las Vegas during a 2008 weekend visit to the city. Thinking such shops might contain unique characters, they searched for a family-run shop on which to center a TV series, until they found the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop less than two miles from the Las Vegas Strip. It had been the subject of a 2001 PBS documentary, and the manager and part-owner, Rick Harrison, had been trying unsuccessfully to pitch a show based on his shop for four years. The shop, and Rick, had previously been featured in the Las Vegas episode of Insomniac with Dave Attell in 2003.
The series was originally pitched to HBO, though the network preferred the series to have been a Taxicab Confessions-style series taking place at the Gold & Silver's night window. The format eventually evolved into the now-familiar family-oriented motif used on the series. History president Nancy Dubuc, who had been charged with creating programming with a more populist appeal to balance out the network's in-depth military programming, picked up the series, which was initially titled Pawning History, before a staffer at Leftfield suggested that Pawn Stars would fit better with the locale. The network concurred, believing that name to be more pleasing and easily remembered. The staffer adjusted its story-line in order to bring it in line with the network's brand, which included the on-camera experts appraising the items brought into the Gold & Silver, though she did not discourage the interpersonal conflicts among the show's stars.
The series is filmed on location at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, Nevada. Although jewellery is the most commonly pawned item at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, most of the customers featured in episodes bring in a variety of vintage or antique items to the store, which has 12,000 items in its inventory as of July 2011 (5,000 of which are typically held on pawn). Each episode consists of segments devoted to approximately five or six of these items, in which one of the staff members, usually Rick Harrison, his son Corey, or Harrison's father Richard (known as the "Old Man"), explains the history behind the object. When the buyer is unable to evaluate an object, they consult with a knowledgeable expert who can evaluate it to determine its authenticity and potential value, and in the case of items needing repair, the cost of restoration or preparing the item for sale. Whoever is evaluating the object goes over the potential value with the customer, including the expert's opinion, if one is given, often interspersed with an interview in which he explains the basis of his decision to the viewer. A price tag graphic at the bottom corner of the screen provides the ever-changing dollar amount as the two haggle over the item's price. On occasion, Rick will purchase items in need of restoration before determining its restoration costs, thus taking a risk on such costs.
Interpersonal narratives focusing on the relationship and conflicts among Rick, Corey, the Old Man, and Corey's childhood friend, Austin "Chumlee" Russell, who also works at the shop, also comprise episode plots. These usually pertain to arguments over the running of the shop, the elder Harrisons questioning Corey's judgment, and aspersions cast on Chumlee's intelligence and competence. Before the second commercial break, a multiple choice trivia question related to the shop and its inventory, the cast members or one of the featured items is shown, with the answer provided after the break; beginning with the Season 8 episode "A Very Vegas Christmas", a trivia question is asked at every commercial break.
In addition to spawning imitators, such as the truTV series Hardcore Pawn, the success of Pawn Stars has been a boon to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, which has become a Las Vegas tourist site, and has expanded its business accordingly. Originally averaging between 70 and 100 customers per day, the shop's traffic increased to more than 1,000 by October 2010. To handle the increased business, the shop hired nearly 30 new employees, and underwent a $400,000 expansion of their showroom by two thirds, to 15,000 square feet, the shop's tenth expansion since it opened. Rick Harrison also mentioned in the fourth season episode "Over the Top" that he was building a gym above the Pawn Shop for the staff's use. The shop also now sells its own brand merchandise, whose designs originate from fans entering design competitions on Facebook, which saves the Harrisons the cost of hiring professional designers. The staff's presence on Facebook and Twitter also ensures audiences during local nightclub appearances, for which Corey Harrison and Chumlee Russell are paid $1,000 a night. As a result of filming at the shop, however, the four main cast members no longer work the counter, due to laws that require the identity of customers pawning items to remain confidential, and the tourists and fans taking photos and video in the showroom that would preclude this. When shooting episodes of the series, the shop is temporarily closed, with only a handful of customers allowed into the showroom.
In July 2011, Harrison signed a record-breaking 80-episode renewal contract for four more seasons of the series.
After being broadcast during its first four years on Mondays at 10PM ET, the program moved to Thursday nights at 9PM ET on May 30, 2013, replacing Swamp People, which moved an hour later to 10PM ET. The program also received a new opening and theme song, "Winning isn't Everything", performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The opening was replaced again with different theme music from an uncredited artist on June 12, 2014.
Main shop staff
Minor shop staff
Professional specialists are sometimes called in by the pawn shop to determine the authenticity and value of the items brought in and, in some cases, to restore them. The following is a list of recurring experts who have appeared in two or more episodes.
Celebrity cameo appearances
Cameo appearances have been made by Bob Dylan, Jeremy McKinnon, Meredith Vieira, the Oak Ridge Boys, George Stephanopoulos, Matt Kenseth, Steve Carell, Kip Winger, Roger Daltrey, Katie Couric and Butch Harmon.
U.S. television ratings
By January 2011, Pawn Stars was History's highest-rated series. An original episode broadcast on January 24, 2011 was watched by seven million viewers, the most-watched telecast ever on History, according to the network and Nielsen Media Research. In 2011 it was the second highest-rated reality series on TV behind Jersey Shore, attracting 7.6 million viewers. In 2016, a New York Times study of the 50 TV shows with the most Facebook Likes found that Pawn Stars was most popular in rural Kentucky.
Christopher Long, reviewing the first season DVD for DVD Town, praised the series for its cast and the educational value of the items examined, calling it "addictive" and "a big-time winner", and opined that it is the best show on History and perhaps cable. In one issue of TV Guide, writer Rob Moynihan included the show in a list of "guilty pleasures." April McIntyre of Monsters and Critics, whose negative view of pawn shops influenced her view of the series' setting, reviewed one episode of the series, which she labeled a "cool Antiques Roadshow". Though she found aspects of it interesting, she criticized what she perceived as an emphasis on cheap laughs at the expense of family patriarch Richard Harrison over the show's historical material, as well as Corey Harrison's weight. She ultimately saw potential for the series if aspects of it that she found to be in poor taste were curbed. USA Today's Gary Strauss opined that the bickering among the Harrisons, as well as the customers seen in the shop, is "alternately amusing and grating". People magazine wrote of the show, "Think Antiques Roadshow, but with neon and far more tattoos." Some of History's viewers were reportedly displeased with how reality series like Pawn Stars and Swamp People have replaced some of the network's previous history-oriented programming.
The series has also attracted some criticism from other pawnbrokers, who while conceding its entertainment value, claim that the series' focus on the extravagant vintage items brought into the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop are not typical of the average pawn shop, whose business is predicated on individuals on fixed income who bring in conventional objects in order to pay their bills, such as electronics, tools and jewelry. Corey Grigson and Charles Brown, who own a shop called Pawn Stars, estimate that their average loan to a customer is between $50 and $100. They also point out appraisals are handled by the staff, who rely on experience, reference works and research, and not the outside experts who are frequently seen on the show aiding the Harrisons.
The success of the series has also lent itself to parody. At the June 2011 NHL Awards in Las Vegas, the Hanson Brothers from the movie Slap Shot appeared in a spoof sketch in which they try to sell the Stanley Cup to Harrison at the Gold & Silver. The show has received 7.7/10 ratings on TV.com and has received 7.4/10 ratings on IMDb.
Awards and honors
In 2010, Rick Harrison and the staff of the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop were awarded the Pawnbroker of the Year Award by the National Pawnbrokers Association for bringing the industry greater recognition and a better image with the TV show.
On July 17, 2012, the Clark County Commission declared that day to be "Pawn Stars/Gold & Silver Pawn Day". At the Commission meeting, Richard "The Old Man" Harrison donated $1,000 to the Clark County Heritage Museum, and lent the U.S. Senate floor chair used by Senator Patrick McCarran (sold to the Gold and Silver in the Pawn Stars episode "Take a Seat") to the museum as part of a display on Senator McCarran.
In October 2012, A+E Networks and History, as well as cast members from the show, were sued in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas for interference with business practices by Wayne Jefferies, a Las Vegas promoter and the Harrisons' manager, who represented them and Austin Lee "Chumlee" Russell in their television business dealings. Jefferies, who was instrumental in helping to launch the series, states that after the show premiered, his influence in the show was increasingly reduced, and he was ultimately fired and left without his promised share of fees and merchandising royalties from the series. Jefferies states that this occurred after a January 2012 leaked story on TMZ that indicated that the Pawn Stars cast was taken aback by History's launch of the spinoff Cajun Pawn Stars, of which the cast had been unaware.
In March 2016, "Chumlee" Russell pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the discovery of an arsenal of weapons, marijuana, and other drugs by police at his home in Las Vegas.
Spinoffs and similar series by Leftfield
Following the success of Pawn Stars, Leftfield Pictures created the following spinoffs of Pawn Stars:
In addition, Leftfield created five similar series that follow the same format as Pawn Stars:
In 2011, History launched Pawn Stars: The Game for play on Facebook.
In June 2011, Rick Harrison's autobiography, License to Pawn: Deals, Steals, and My Life at the Gold & Silver, was published by Hyperion Books. Harrison's autobiography details his childhood, some of the troubles he faced before he got into the pawning business, as well as anecdotes from his time at the Gold & Silver. Also, The Old Man, Corey, and Chumlee have their own chapters in the book, reflecting on their life and experiences at the pawn shop.
In October 2011, the Redwood Hills Financial Group issued the Modern Cash Prepaid MasterCard Limited Edition: Gold & Silver Pawn Shop prepaid debit card, in a special tie-in with the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop.
On September 5, 2012, it was announced that Bally Technologies would unveil a new slot machine featuring the cast of Pawn Stars the following month at the 2012 Global Gaming Expo. which took place October 2 to 4, 2012 in Las Vegas.