How 'Pawn Stars' Launched a Hot New Genre and May Earn Academy Respect

"Pawn Stars"
"Pawn Stars"
 Joey L./History channel

THR's Lacey Rose explores the big business of "Thrift TV."

TruTV executive vp and GM Marc Juris, who has had big success with Hardcore Pawn, agrees. As he sees it, the subject matter appeals to viewers because it not only "provides relatable fantasy" but also offers an inherent story arc. It begins with the item; then the suspense of what it is worth; the valuation; and, finally, either conflict or delight.

"In a single transaction, it has all of the elements of a great story," he says. (Juris notes that Hardcore Pawn was in development at the same time as Pawn Stars; the former was simply slower to air.)

Whatever the reason for the cultural fascination, the popularity of these programs is undeniable. Could the next phase be Emmy recognition?

With eight-time nominated Antiques the exception, pawn-themed shows have not yet landed on the academy's radar, though that is likely to change as programmers such as History roll out ambitious campaigns in the trades and consumer press. Among them: "For Your Consideration" ads for Pawn Stars that say, "If you give us an Emmy, we promise not to sell it."

Retaining the present momentum without reaching saturation is another priority for networks and producers alike.

But Montgomery acknowledges that the proliferation of copycats that once frightened him now gives him confidence. "It has actually showed the broadcasters that the audience appetite for these hidden-treasure shows is much wider than any of us would have guessed," he says. 

12 REALITY CONTENDERS: THR picks the strongest candidates in competition and nonfiction.

  • The Amazing Race (CBS)
  • Antiques Roadshow (PBS)
  • American Idol (Fox)
  • Dirty Jobs (Discovery)
  • Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
  • Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (ABC)
  • Project Runway (Lifetime)
  • MythBusters (Discovery)
  • Survivor (CBS)
  • Pawn Stars (History)
  • Top Chef (Bravo)
  • Undercover Boss (CBS)    


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