LAS VEGAS–In a few short years, Pawn Stars has become a multi-million dollar TV franchise. Sold around the world, translated into several languages, the simple little reality show continues to make history on History.
Why has Pawn Stars connected? “There never really was quite a genre like this before us,” says Rick Harrison. “We’re sort of like a game show.”
Rick and his son, Corey (a.k.a. “Big Hoss”) met with reporters from around the world Wednesday in Los Angeles.
The 48-year-old often hears, usually from mothers, that it is also one of the few shows the whole family can watch together. Then there’s the history lessons, and, of course, Chumlee.
|Fan drawings of the four Pawn Stars are pinned up on the bulletin board|
Harrison says he was always trying to get on television “because it was good for business.” Some local exposure boosted sales in the shop. HBO was interested in a series focusing on the night window, more along the lines of their “Taxicab Confessions.” Leftfield Pictures got involved, and The History Channel tilted the series more towards the items brought into the shop and the on-camera experts.
A pilot was shot, but still Corey was skeptical. “No one will ever watch this show,” was his initial reaction. “I can’t believe we wasted three months on this.”
Instead, the series was an instant smash.
Not that Rick watches it. He hates seeing himself on camera.
|Chumlee golf balls|
He also completely missed the CBS drama “Vegas,” a drama set in the ‘60s which came and went last season. Corey saw it and hated it. “They turned the real-life villain into a hero,” he says, referring to Dennis Quaid’s character, who was based on an actual Las Vegas sheriff. The Harrison’s say the real guy was loathed in the community as a crooked lawman.
Much more realistic, says Rick, was Martin Scorsese’s 1995 feature “Casino.” “Everything in that film really happened,” he says.
Harrison should know. An expert on many things that come into his pawn shop, the well-read entrepreneur is also well versed on his adopted city. He cites over dinner how the place was first chartered in 1908, when the prostitution laws were introduced and then repealed, how the mob bosses actually stayed away from downtown and the crooks who ran the city.
The Harrisons and Chumlee crank out around 70 episodes of Pawn Stars a year, producing roughly two a week. The series remains one of the highest rated cable or specialty shows in the U.S. and Canada.
It’s also a worldwide hit, airing in 130 countries in 38 languages. It’s a Top-5 hit in Japan and popular in Mexico.
The show is dubbed, which has caused some confusion. Corey says a man came up to him speaking Spanish and couldn’t understand why the Pawn Star was not speaking back to him.
For more on the Pawn Stars, read this story I filed this week to The Canadian Press.