***Welcome to Part I of my History Is History series, where I take an in-depth look at the televised sewage plant that is The History Channel. The Klan Rally of Kable. TV’s equivalent to working a 9-5 at minimum wage, except instead of getting cash at the end of the week, you’re paid exclusively in worthless 9/11 Commemorative Coins. Truly, and honestly, one of worst channels in the History of television. Enjoy.***
First up, the #1 show – Pawn Stars
What was once a station commonly mocked and labeled as The Hitler Channel for its obsession with the Second World War, but in actuality featured solid, if run-of-the-mill, documentary-style historical programming, has grown up to become a full-on redneck.
Using the term “History” about as loosely as an Air Bud film does “Drama”, The History Channel is so far removed from its origins, that it sometimes seems like a different entity altogether.
Today, The History Channel is complete filth.
Think of it as a colonial plantation dropped awkwardly into the middle of television suburbia.
A neighborhood where the families of USA, VH1, and Spike hold a friendly potluck dinner. AMC and HBO snuggle in for a movie night. MTV’s parents are out of town and they’re throwing a block party and Shop Network’s got a yardsale in the front lawn.
Hell, even the recluses over at SyFy come out and say hello every once in a while.
But down at the end of the street, a kid from the ESPN house kicks his soccer ball over the fence and into The History Channel’s massive backyard. The kid stops at the fence, examining a row of ominous signs riddled with bullet holes, No Trespassing and, I’ll Take my Guns Money and Freedom, You Keep The Change.
He quickly second guesses whether or not he should go in after it.
But before he can decide, a warning shotgun BLAST rings out, and a voice hollers from somewhere inside, keep the hell outta my property with that fancy soccer ball and left-wing bullshit! We ain’t got nothin’ for the likes of you round here. Now git!
And standing proudly at the gates of the History Channel mansion, (think the bad guy’s place in Roadhouse, except with more monster trucks and less class) the station’s mascots guard the door…The Pawn Stars.
For me, it all begins with Pawn Stars. This is the show that truly made History into what it is today, a huge steaming pile of dragon shit.
When being pitched, I’m sure the show was described along these lines:
Watch four historical experts buy and sell some of the country’s most unique and valuable artifacts.
However, a more realistic pitch would go as follows:
Watch four morbidly obese slobs with Wikipedia access lowball you and offer you thirty five dollars and a samurai sword for your priceless family heirlooms.
The first thing you’ll notice about this show is the main characters. That’s because they are fucking massive.
All of them look like those pig-aliens that guarded Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi.
Rick is the leader of the whole operation, and I’m calling it that on purpose. Make no mistake about it, these guys are a nothing but a two-bit criminal operation.
Reverse-Robin Hoods stealing from the poor. Ocean’s Eleven if it followed a group of guys who ate their entire month’s worth of Nutrisystem in the first day, and then broke into the homes of lower-middle class Americans to steal their most valuable item, leaving them nothing but a feeling of confusion and violation in return.
Rick is the ringleader, the brains of this operation. In Home Alone terms, the Harry to the rest of the store’s Marv. Completely fucking stupid, but not quite dumb enough to get electrocuted into a skeleton by a twelve year old.
There’s also Rick’s senile father, Old Man. This guy mostly gets a pass from me simply because he effortlessly works in antiquated, feline-based phrases like Cat’s Pajamas or Cat’s Meow into every other sentence. Try doing that. Come on, try. Hard, isn’t it?
And then, of course, there’s Chumlee. The most glorified retard since Forrest Gump.
This guy has been everywhere. Late night TV, commercials, you name it, he’s slobbered on it.
I find it fitting that the show’s poster boy is also their dumbest. Having an actual mongoloid as the mascot for Pawn Stars is the truest form of brand representation I’ve ever seen.
Think if the logo for Taco Bell was just a picture of diarrhea. Or if Jameson Irish Whiskey was a blank black image. Exchange the iconic Budweiser seal for domestic violence court documents. Chumlee as the face for this show is simply too perfect.
Finally, there’s Rick’s son, Corey. My least favorite of the bunch. I kid you not, deciding which member of the Pawn Stars I hated most was the single hardest decision I have ever made in my entire life.
Shockingly, these guys don’t know shit.
The show attempts to portray them as knowledgeable history buffs, but I guarantee if they were called out on any of the scripted and memorized facts they blatantly read off during the show, they’d stumble and turn red like a student caught plagiarizing on a paper.
There is one thing I’ll give them, though, they’ve got an eye for garbage.
You could walk The Shroud of Turin through that door and no one would look twice, but if you can get your hands on Hulk Hogan’s soiled trunks from Wrestlemania III…well, now we might be talking serious money.
All you need to do is take a look around their shop to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
Ted Nugent has a more tasteful eye than these people. A layout like the living room of a hillbilly who won the Mega Millions. All manner of trashy trinkets and accessories thrown about haphazardly.
Cases upon cases of swords. If you watch this show, you will quickly notice that there are swords everywhere. The interior of this place is like the set of Braveheart, except with an even more racist director at the helm.
Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison posters stare down from the walls, and if you look closely, you can see actual tears dripping from their eyes, wondering what they ever did so wrong to be enshrined in such a hell hole.
Loose pistols and uzis indiscriminately thrown into a rotting cardboard box, mixed in with engagement rings and baseball cards. Dig in, most of them aren’t loaded and there’s a signed Darryl Strawberry card in there somewhere.
Somewhere in the back, a pristine pilot’s suit from WWI gathers dust on a shelf, but hanging on a mannequin out front are the actual suits worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito on the cover of Twins. You know, really valuable shit.
Somehow, real artwork finds this place, too. A Picasso hangs on an angle, barely noticeable beside the featured artwork, an airbrushed eagle soaring through a dolphin’s butthole, leaving a rainbow trail at the top of a snowy mountain in the desert.
It’s fucking sad. Cripplingly sad.
While most folks may turn to primetime CBS programming to get their dramatic television, to have a good cry, I just need Pawn Stars.
This, to me, is the most depressing show on television.
Episode after episode, a patron arrives at the store, looking like they just spend the last twenty years as a roadie for a Dio cover band.
A man with a rat-tail tucked in to the back of his Bob Seger tour t-shirt finishes the last of his Wild Turkey pint and stumbles through the door. A woman donning a sweater that inexplicably mixes dreamcatchers, unicorns, and cats, breaks her 20 year self-imposed home-imprisonment to head down to the pawn shop for the day.
People who are at the end of their rope, buried in debt, crippled with addiction…these are the ideal customers for our heroes.
Please come with me as I take you through the journey of the average Pawn Stars patron:
Their grandmother just died. A sweet woman, who did nothing but love them as hard as she could. She practically raised them while their mother was over at The Bunny Ranch playing hide the salami (I owe you one, Captain Ron) with every dirtbag in Nevada.
But she’s dead now, which means her grandson has to go through her things, sort out what she left behind. And then he finds it, something that has been within the family for generations.
A golden necklace that came over during an ancestor’s perilous voyage from Europe. Or maybe a relative’s Civil War saber, covered in the blood of a Confederate trooper who meant to kill him, to end the family line right then and there. Not a single price tag capable of matching the item’s significance.
Actually, how about two hundred dollars and that signed Kid Rock guitar over there? SOLD.
That’s all it takes. They shake hands and the man parts ways with something that his family will never get back, all so that he can go around the corner to the casino and spend the rest of the day staring at Vanna White’s airbrushed tits on the Wheel of Fortune slots.
What’s so disgusting about this show, and what is says about our culture, is that literally everything is expendable for a quick buck.
There’s nothing too sacred to sell; no one item that simply can’t be bought. If you walk it into that pawn shop, they will find a way to pry it from your hands for the lowest possible amount.
In fact, I’d be willing to wager, that if tomorrow, the dingleberries of our elderly become valuable, you’d see them by the bucketload on Pawn Stars the very next day.
Terrible grandsons and awful nieces would be flooding old folks homes with a pair of scissors and a ziplock bag, snipping away at the very last thing these people have, their god damn dingleberries.
These decades-old shit balls that have faithfully clung on within the trousers of our elderly through good times and bad, wars and depressions, would at the drop of a hat, be cut, packaged, and sold to these mouth-breathing fatties for the promise of cold hard cash in a heartbeat.
I can see it now:
Rick: What ya got there?
Customer: Oh…well, I actually have my grandfather’s dingleberries here. He just moved in to a retirement home down the way, and I uh, I thought he wouldn’t need them anymore, so I cut them off when he was sleeping.
Rick: And what were you lookin’ to do with it? Pawn it? Sell it?
Customer: I was hopin’ to sell it. Could use the cash right now.
Rick: Mind if I take a look?
Customer: Please, be my guest.
Rick pulls out the dingleberry from the baggie and inspects it with one of those magnifying glasses that fancy diamond dealers use.
Rick: You have no idea what you’ve got here, do you?
Customer: Well…I know it’s a pretty solid little dingleberry. And…I know it’s old.
Rick: This is the rarest dingleberry I have ever seen.
The customer gets excited, dollar signs flashing in his eyes.
Customer: Pop-Pop you son of a bitch! I always knew you had great dingleberries! Yooweee!
Rick: You mind if I call in an expert? I mean, I think this small turd is genuine, but we see a lot of fakes in here, and I just have to be sure.
The customer agrees and Rick calls in his trusted dingleberry expert, Carl. Carl takes a look.
Carl: Rick, you’ve got the Holy Grail of fecal matter in your store right now. Wow, I’m just, I’m just blown away by the quality of this dingleberry.
Customer: What’s so special ’bout the thing?
Carl: This is no average shit-flake. This dingleberry has somehow survived for centuries. It’s as if…no, that’s impossible…
Rick: What Carl? Say it. The people need to know the history, dammit!
Carl: Well, I’ll probably get laughed out of the historical dingleberry community for saying this, and you might think I’m crazy, but this is the dingleberry of Jesus Christ himself.
Rick and the customer nearly faint.
Carl: Somehow it’s stayed with your family, passed down from underwear to underwear for generations, for THOUSANDS OF YEARS! This…is the dingleberry to end all dingleberries.
Customer: I can’t believe it! I had no idea it was that valuable! So what do you think it’s worth?
Carl: Oh, well I’d have to place the dingleberry of Jesus Christ around at least a million dollars.
The man pumps his fist.
Rick: Hey Carl, thanks a lot for coming down, you’re the best in the business.
Carl tips his hat and leaves the two to their negotiations.
Rick: So what did you want for it?
Customer: You heard the man. I’ll take a million dollars. Cash.
Rick: Not gonna happen. That’s the auction price, I’d be lucky to get half that. I can do two hundred.
Rick: Two hundred dollars. Cash money.
Customer: I don’t know. That seems awful low. I mean, this thing is really worth something. That’s Jesus’ poop you’re holding right there.
Rick: Look, I know it’s a pretty rare piece, but it’s gonna be a tough sell. I’m just not sure there’s a market out there for it. I mean, with the current economy, people aren’t spending that kind of money on the feces of their gods anymore. They just aren’t. I’ll go two fifty and that’s it.
The man mulls it over. From a million to 250$ just like that…
Customer: Aw hell, I’m on a hot streak in Keno and I just can’t pass up big money like that. You got a deal.
They shake hands and the man leaves the pawn shop, smiling as he counts his money. Rick, meanwhile, bags up the artifact, the doo-doo of a deity, and tucks it away behind a row of howling wolf sculptures.
Aside from making me sad beyond expression, unbelievably concerned for the future of our country, and curious what I could get for that totally bitchin’ cougar painting hanging over in the corner of my room, writing this has inspired me.
It’s inspired me to do whatever I can to make sure my valuables don’t suffer the same fate.
So I want to close with a letter to my yet-to-be-born grandchildren, with the hope that they get this message someday long after I’ve gone.
I know I haven’t always been there.
I know it embarrasses you when I show up drunk to your little league games, crashing my flying Hoveround scooter into the dugout, screaming into the Life Alert app on my iPad 40.
I also know that you hate it when I shit myself at the dinner table and you have to change me. Actually, I want to let you in on a little secret, I have full bowel-control, I’m just super god damn lazy.
And sure, my Christmas presents haven’t been great lately, but you’ll thank me one day for that Sam’s Club size box of tin foil. You can’t ever have enough of that stuff.
But listen to me, and listen good, your grandfather loved you. Calling you all assholes and hoodlums because you wore your space pants baggy and had your Intergalactic Raydon Visors on sideways all those years was out of love.
And it’s because of that love that I want you to have my most valuable possession. Something that I’ve had since I was just a boy, something that means everything to me…
My 1994 Shogun Mike Ninja Turtle figurine, still in the packaging. Mint.
Cherish it. Display it on your mantle. Pass it down from generation to generation. Keep it in the family.
Please, just please, promise me that whatever you do, don’t sell it for two hundred dollars cash and a signed Kid Rock guitar.