Wednesday, May 1, 2013

HARDCORE PAWN Episode Six: Everybody's 'Fired' Up!

"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 is an amazingly successful, largely unsung Detroit TV wonder. Shot inside the now-iconic American Jewelry and Loan on Eight Mile Road, Hardcore Pawn is truTV's most consistently successful series: its season seven premiere last March 26 drew the cable channel's largest audience ever in the coveted demo of adults 18-49. 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, 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 and Loan. So for its lucky seventh season, I've selected Hardcore Pawn as a series to review here on a weekly basis. Here's a recap of Episode Six, aired on April 30:

Hyped by the most eye-popping promo commercial of the season – an erotic encounter between a customer and a stuffed bear in the middle of the showroom, and a wild-eyed Seth ranting in the warehouse before deciding on his own to fire an employee – the sixth episode of Hardcore Pawn, "Busted," promised much. And for the most part, it delivered.
This may not be the best half-hour of the season to date (Episode Three, the sibling rivalry contest between Ashley and Seth that culminated in Seth's huge "Make Her Quit" billboard over the store, may claim that honor), but it might be my favorite thus far.
Along the way we learned a new term of endearment – "Asha-Lee-Lee" – and an exotic new urban verb construction – "better don't," as in, "You better don't miss an episode of Hardcore Pawn. But if you do, you can always read the Big Glowing Box recap!"

Six weeks in, the arrest of American Jewelry and Loan's head of security for a series of thefts in the jewelry repair area, the shocking conclusion to last season, still impacts the action at the pawn shop. The mounting father-son anger between Les and Seth is thick enough to cut with a diamond as this episode commences, with Seth announcing that jewelry repair expert Jeff is out sick. 
Subsequently, Seth issues a loud, ominous "zero tolerance" warning to the staff: absolutely NO ONE is to venture into Jeff's work area. Failure to comply will be cause for immediate dismissal.

(You can see the future at this point, right?)
(Credit: Mark Hill/Turner)
More troubling is the fact that Les already issued such a warning previously, yet Seth feels the need to restate it and up the ante with the threat of unemployment. "I can't believe my dad and brother are still fighting, and now they won't even talk to each other," Ashley laments. "If the two of them don't get on the same page, the whole store is going to crumble." 
Well, that may be overstating matters a touch, but anytime Ashley has to serve as peacemaker you know all is not well in the land of Gold.

Apparently her calming intentions extend to the customers. A quick, tart-tongued Little Richard lookalike is cussing out the entire window staff to retrieve his TV out of hock until Ashley intervenes. Once they establish their mutual love for Detroit, the perturbed patron instantly softens. He even leaves the window smiling – until he inspects his set and discovers scratches he insists were not there before. 
Ashley notes that his claim ticket says otherwise, inciting his ire once again. "Asha-Lee-Lee, listen to me-me!" he implores. 
When he refuses to leave the store, Les steps in. When he wags his finger in Les's face, the customer steps out. Quickly, with security guard Byron's help. "Bald-headed rascal!" he shouts at Les upon departing.

Irate customer No. 2 arrives. (Where do they all come from? Can there really be that much anger in Detroit?) He contends the ring he bought at AJ&L was dirty, and his lady isn't going to give him any until he gets it cleaned. 
Les asks longtime employee Bobby J. to go clean and polish the ring – which of course means he must travel into Jeff's off-limits workspace! When Seth, who's monitoring the security cameras like an IRS agent scrutinizes your return, sees Bobby walking around Jeff's desk without context, his next move is clear.

Meanwhile, although it's hard to label any segment "weirdest" amid the long legacy of Hardcore Pawn lunacy, two moments in this episode deserve at least to be in the discussion. One is a google-eyed gent so attracted to a full-sized stuffed and mounted black bear that, well, he looks like he wants to stuff and mount it. He sniffs it, lovingly plays with its fur, even sticks his hand between its legs (triggering one of the greatest Ashley reaction shots ever) before finally deciding "we (he and the bear) are not feeling it." 
"I saw this guy meet a bear, have a relationship with the bear and break up with the bear, all in a matter of five minutes," Ashley marvels. 
Later, a woman and her sardonic daughter arrive with a cart full of "really expensive stuff" – old liquor bottles, vinyl albums and a stamp collection among them. When Les informs the mom that her items are "a whole lotta nothin'," daughter can't resist an I-told-you-so wisecrack. Mama don't take no mess. 
"You better don't go there!" she snaps back, and suddenly their give-and-take turns physical, as in trading punches in the showroom. 

Peace is quickly restored and the two women escorted from the premises, with Les pushing mom's cart full of dreams behind them. "You better don't leave this stuff in here," he says. In the process, Les delivers one of the all-time great ironic lines in Hardcore history: 
"I can't believe a mother and daughter were just fighting over a stamp collection," he deadpans. "I hate when families fight."
Les, still pining over his failure to close the deal on a replica Vernor's ginger ale delivery truck in Episode Four, buys a neon Vernor's window sign as kind of a personal consolation prize. But the big fizz in this episode is Seth calling Bobby into his office and actually firing him for entering the sacred jewelry repair territory. 
When Bobby responds that Les authorized him to be there, Seth has no choice but to rescind his termination. "I'm pissed," says Seth. "I don't want my dad making me look like the a--hole because he's breaking his own f---ing rules!"
The father-son confrontation at show's end seemed louder and even more ferocious than normal. "You were going to fire Bobby J. without even talking to me about it?" Les charges. "What the hell is wrong with you? Who you gonna fire next,"
Ohhh, wouldn't he like to? He thinks the old man is "screwing up" (his words) by not following his own policies; Les is furious that his son would berate him in front of the employees. Enter Ashley the Peacemaker to halt their tirade. "You two have to talk to each other!" she pleads. "You two have been at each other's throats ever since Joe got caught stealing! It's time to move on."
Think they will? Hey, it's a long season. They've got plenty episodes to go.   

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It took four long weeks, but we finally have a cockeyed customer with the chutzpah to rank as one of our Top 5 most outrageous Hardcore Pawn ejections of the season.
The quick, sharp-tongued man in this episode's first scene who became enchanted by Ashley – or "Asha-Lee-Lee," as he preferred – only to eventually wag his finger in Les's face (a serious American Jewelry and Loan no-no) over his scratched TV screen displaces Josh, the determined doofus from Dallas in Episode Three, in the No. 5 spot on our list. (Are congratulations in order here? It's hard to say.) However, the four best toss-outs from 2013 remain unchanged. They are:

4. Patrick, the demented drum dealer from Up North in Episode Three who declared, "Everybody knows Ashley from American Jewelry and Loan is a bitch!" Security chief Byron showed Patrick the door so quickly, Ashley had to chase him down in the parking lot to return his "antique" African drum.

3. The sentimental fool from Episode One who tried to pawn one of his late grandmother's rings in the same breath he mourns her recent death. His verbal and physical assault on Ashley sparked Les's rage, because NOBODY insults his daughter in his store. It also brought Ashley to tears.

2. "DogMan," the tall computer genius with anger management issues in Episode Two who orders Les to retrieve the hard drive from his pawned PC and calls everybody "Dog." "Who let the dog out?" asked Les, who unleashed his first "MF" of the season. "Byron let the dog out!"

And, still reigning at No. 1:

The boy genius from Episode One who came in looking to buy a portable generator and asked, "It doesn't run on electricity, does it?" When he demanded to bring the generator to his home to test it out and is denied, he got the Byron Bounce and ended up humping one of the tall front-door pylons on his way to the parking lot!
He might have been bi-"pole"-ar.