Wednesday, April 3, 2013

HARDCORE PAWN, Episode Two: Workers of the World, Revolt!

"In the heart of Detroit's 8 Mile lies the city's biggest and baddest pawn shop...."

I am Michiganian by birth, Detroiter by heart. I spent more than 30 years in the Automotive Capital of Earth, became a man and a professional there, so shows that are set in Detroit or attempt to capture a slice of life in the Motor City are especially dear to me.

Hardcore Pawn in particular is an amazingly successful, largely unsung Detroit TV jewel. Shot inside the now-iconic American Jewelry & Loan on Eight Mile Road, Hardcore Pawn ended its sixth season with 3.4 million viewers on truTV, largest audience in the network's history. It's basic cable's No. 1 unscripted program in its 9 p.m. (EST) Tuesday time slot, spawned a spinoff series in Hardcore Pawn: Chicago and, if it weren't for the unbelievably whacked-out string of belligerent, ignorant, foulmouthed customers it spotlights, it would be a continuing source of pride for Detroiters.

Moreover, I have grown to know series stars Les and Seth Gold and Ashley Gold Broad personally. I've written several stories on the family-owned business, including this feature for HOUR Detroit magazine. I've even patronized the place: the wristwatch I wear every day was purchased at American Jewelry & Loan. So for its lucky seventh season, which premiered Tuesday, March 26, I've selected Hardcore Pawn as a series to review here on a weekly basis. Here's a recap of Episode Two, aired April 2:

When we left last week's season-opening episode, the female loan workers at American Jewelry & Loan were ending their workday with steam pouring out of their ears. They vehemently objected to Seth's new policy of searching every employee each day as they left the store. (This move a knee-jerk reaction to the pawn shop's head of security caught on tape stealing gold and diamonds, the bombshell that ended last season.)

As this episode begins, we see exactly how angry the women are: They stage a mass "sick-out" in protest, with virtually none of the back-office employees showing up for work. Les, Seth and Ashley have no alternative but to work the customer windows themselves.

"You know this is all your fault," Ashley, never one to mince her words, accuses Seth. "You and your body searches, Seth!"

"Me and my body searches?" counters Seth, prior to delivering one of the lamest rationales in modern television history. "All the girls call in sick, maybe they're really sick."

Nice try. "I don't remember ever a time in our history where all of the loan girls walked out and never came back the next day!" Ashley concludes.


(Credit: Mark Hill/Turner)
It takes Les, oh, about three minutes to remember why he stopped working the windows 20 years ago. A tall, very insistent young man arrives asking to retrieve the hard drive from a computer he pawned at American. Problem: Once you pawn an item, it's owned by the pawn shop until you buy it back. All of it.

As you've come to expect, the hard-drive hooligan grows increasingly irate, declares he's not leaving until he gets what he came for, and begins slapping the glass in front of Les's face while repeatedly calling him "Dog." Don't slap the glass in front of Les's face and call him "Dog." Les goes so far as to write "NO" in big block letters on a piece of paper and hold it in front of the troublemaker's face, growing so irritated himself that he unleashes his first "MF" of the season. Byron, the new head of security, eventually dog-pounds the fist-swinging scoundrel while showing him the door, the season's first great ejection.

"Who let the dog out?" Les asks Seth. "Byron let the dog out!"

Meanwhile, Ashley just can't stop herself. "You know this is going to bite you in the ass," she tells Seth. "Did you see how angry the employees were when they walked out last night?"

"Why don't you shut up and get back to work?" Seth gently suggests.

She does. Ashley works the phones, trying to contact the wayward workers and convince them to return to work the next day. At first all her calls go directly to voicemails, spiking her frustration. When Ashley finally does make contact, one employee tells her she didn't appreciate "being treated like a criminal" over an incident in which she played no part and questions whether she'll ever come back to work. "Don't make any final decisions," Ashley implores. "I will deal with Seth."

Seth doesn't witness her phone campaign; all he knows is, she's not helping him at the customer windows. 

Meanwhile, Les leaves his post as well, drawn outside to view a massive, impressively detailed wooden cigar humidor that the goateed seller claims was made by the Detroit Showcase Company circa 1920. He's asking slightly less than $10,000, and Les, a cigar smoker himself, knows the humidor is worth it. Problem is, it'll be almost impossible to resell and if he decides to keep it, where is he going to put it? After initially walking away from the deal, Les throws a last-minute Hail Mary and gets the humidor hustler to agree to $1,400 rather than hauling it home. But it takes Les almost an hour to negotiate the price, making window-bound Seth even testier.

After the half-hour's most entertaining segment – a loud, wiry woman who demands to see her lying store-employee boyfriend about unpaid child support (a boyfriend who apparently lied about working at American, since no such employee exists) and is slyly persuaded to leave by being told he's outside on his break – Seth's teeming anger boils over. When a black-capped customer shouts and cavorts so outrageously that Seth can't complete a simple business call, he steps from behind the glass, confronts him, ejects him, then calls an emergency family meeting in his office.

Seth's rage may be slightly misplaced. "I've had it! What in the world is going on with you guys today!" he charges. He accuses Ashley of being on "a coffee break all day" and Les of taking "an hour to negotiate a hunk of wood and glass."

Les and Ashley's jaws drop in unison.

Their reaction is swift and pointed: Seth, THIS IS YOUR FAULT! "My fault?" he reacts. "That our employees steal from us, this is my fault?"

Not a classic Hardcore Pawn episode by any means, but watchable nonetheless. It ends in a flurry of yelling and accusations, but no resolution. Will the workers return? Will harmony be restored to American Jewelry and Loan? Like the off-camera announcers used to say back in the Dark Ages, "Tune in next week."

NOTE: It was very cool to see Les, Seth and Ashley appear in a customized commercial promoting the Friday, April 5 release of Evil Dead, the remake of the 1981 cult-horror classic. One set of Detroit originals, plugging another. 


  1. This show is absoultly wonderful. My family and I watch it every time we get and if we cant its being recorded. This is an amazing show. So, far This is the best tv show on TruTv. Thanks so much GOLDS for a job well done. Id still like it if yous would make series DVD's for sale. ME, like others just wish the show could be an hour long. Im sure you have plenty of ironic people with big mouths to have an hr long show. :)