With reality shows turning cameras on the lives of exterminators, hoarders, little people and ghost chasers, audiences continue to eat up whatever window the lense gives them the opportunity to look through. The world of pawn stores and the employees and clientele that inhabit them has proven successful over at the History Channel with "Pawn Stars" and truTV joined the ranks earlier this year to much success with "Hardcore Pawn."
As the second season of "Hardcore Pawn" begins airing tonight on truTV, viewers will see more of the inner workings of one of the country's largest pawn stores along with the family - the Golds - that runs it. But why is son Seth being so grumpy? Will customers be more or less confrontational with patriarch Les and his staff when they don't get what they way? Why is the first day of the month so rife with drama that it is the focus of an entire episode? Our Jim Halterman found out the answers when he recently talked with "Hardcore Pawn" Executive Producer (and truTV SVP of Current Programming and Specials) Tony Horn.
Jim Halterman: The show started off with big numbers this summer. How did "Hardcore Pawn" come together?
Tony Horn: We saw a teaser tape of it that was shot in the store two years ago and there was a producer who brought it to us who had a relationship with the owners of the store that went back a few years. We saw the tape and people here really liked it. We decided to do two half-hour pilots that we put together and put on the air almost exactly a year ago. We put them on the air in late night at 11 o'clock on a December evening in 2009 and they rated very well. Based on that performance, we ordered the series that went on to premiere in August of this year.
JH: The Gold family of Les, Seth, and Ashley are all such great characters. Is that what sold you on the idea?
TH: Yes, obviously the family aspect was something that was interesting to us and the combination with the toughness of the store and the tough neighborhood that they're in made it very appealing. It seemed to us to be a very lively environment without the cameras there and with the cameras there it's still a lively environment. It's an interesting place. I was just there last week and it's fascinating.
JH: I couldn't help but think about a really good sitcom like "Cheers" where you really don't know who is going to be the next person to walk through the door.
TH: That's what it is. There are all kinds of stuff. Some guy will be wheeling in a lawn mower, a woman will bring in a fur coat and someone else will bring in some jewelry. It's all pretty remarkable.
JH: Les's son Seth seems to be very cranky in these new episodes and Les even comments on it. What's going on with him?
TH: There is a reason for it but I'm not going to tell it what it is. I think if you see these first two episodes of the upcoming season, you'll think that the series is becoming a little different and becoming more about the family but after the third show it slowly goes back to more of a balance between the stuff coming in and the family dealing with it. It just so happened that the first two shows had a big family fallout between Seth and Ashley, the daughter.
JH: Once the show really took off, how did it affect Les's business in terms of his recognition and the store's?
TH: People do recognize him and they have recognized him away from the store, as well. I don't think the volume of customers in the store has gone down since we started making the show. There are interesting things that affect the customer flow in a place like Detroit that we don't think about like hunting season and bad weather, which they've had plenty of the last few weeks. Christmas is usually extremely busy and it was busy at times this year but when it gets super cold some people just don't venture out.
JH: The store is huge!
TH: Did you know it's an old bowling alley? About 12 years ago it was converted.
JH: Talk to me about the cameras in the store. Do you think that some of the customers who act out are doing so for the cameras?
TH: People have been acting out in there ever since they opened the place up and it's pretty obvious if you're there. People act out and there's no question that cameras change how people behave depending on who the people are. Some people don't care and just act out and we certainly have a lot of that. Other times, people might be less likely to act out because the cameras are there. I think it works both ways.
JH: The show stays inside the store for the most part. Was there a decision made not to go home with Les and his family and just keep the action in the store?
TH: That's an interesting question. We talked about going to the gym with them but I think people are more interested in seeing the transactions and the negotiations and we get plenty. My answer to a producer who was pushing to do that was if you think you're going to get more family drama away from the store I don't think you're right. So much of it goes on right here that we can capture and I think we do. Right now, we're content staying in the store and not venturing out to their home life, which is probably not that interesting.
JH: What else are we going to see in this new season?
TH: The first day of the month is a very busy time because people get paid or their rent is due and they need to get money or they got paid and they want to get stuff out of hock. There's a line around the store and it turns out to be a pretty crazy day! That's an episode that is about the story of a day. There's also a big blow out in the family that is going to happen on a Saturday that played out in the store and that is going to be a good show. Security is involved in a bunch of stuff in getting people out of the store. I think just a real balance of family stuff and plenty of customer stuff and customers coming in angry.
JH: What is it about shooting a show inside a pawn store that draws in viewers?
TH: I think there's a fascination with it. I didn't know how pawn stores worked until after we did the pilot. There are still some nuances to the business that are very interesting and the fact that they are essentially a bank to some people who have low income for a place like Detroit is interesting. They perform a service for them. You can be cynical about that or not. I tend not to be because I see what they do and what they do for their community. It's fascinating. Beyond that, you've got something that is very basic that people can understand like simple negotiating. I'm fascinated by it and I think a lot of people are.
"Hardcore Pawn" airs every Tuesday night at 10:00/9:00c on truTV.