Monday, August 12, 2013

HARDCORE PAWN, Episode 15: Michael Blowed the Deals for Sure, Hallelujah!

First, before driving into this week's episode, a real-life detour: I was shifting through my morning Tweets a weekend ago when I chanced upon a photo of Seth Gold sitting behind the news desk at one of the local TV stations near where I live.

"Hmmm," said I. Seth already has a good job, I pondered, so he probably hasn't quit American Jewelry and Loan to bump my small-town anchors out of their chairs.

Upon further research, I discovered that Seth was making a personal appearance that afternoon at a shop called Decatur Jewelry & Pawn to help the store celebrate its 25th anniversary. I am not a groupie, nor a stalker. (At least, I don't think I am.) But upon learning he was closer to me than any day he's in Detroit, I rearranged my Saturday plans and hopped in the car just to witness the event and say hello.
"Smile – You're Not Being Thrown Out of the Store"

I'm so glad I did.

Even in this relatively bitty city on a gorgeous summer day, the line of well-wishers wrapped around the inside of a pawnshop and out the door several hours into Seth's visit. Hardcore Pawn apparently travels very well. And Seth, ever the gracious guest host, took time to welcome each admirer personally, ask their name, sign autographs and pose for photos. Given the manufactured chaos and rudeness we watch as standard operating procedure on Hardcore each week, seeing such warmth and patience on display in the real world was heartening.

You'd be surprised – or maybe not – by how many fans ask questions about Ashley. One man asked Seth why his dad, Les, wasn't with him. "Well, if we were here together, that would leave Ashley alone to run the store. And we wouldn't want that to happen, would you?"

The gentleman shrugged and nodded his head, as if the answer made complete sense.
Seth and Glowing Box Guy, Rocking Pure Michigan for His Benefit

In a moment away from the happy throng, Seth – who told me he's in the running for national Pawnbroker of the Year and no, apparently we cannot vote – suggested that what makes engagements like these important to him is that it brings people through the doors who otherwise might never even think of visiting a pawn shop, despite the success of Hardcore Pawn.

The occasion did make me think, however: does Ashley make solo live guest appearances like these?  If so, what kind of reaction does she receive? Are there any pickets? You may not believe this, because there is very little in her TV image that would suggest it, but Ashley Gold Broad is a delightful, engaging woman away from the camera. Perhaps you'll get the opportunity to see that for yourself someday. Seth says the three series stars, father, son and daughter, occasionally appear together live. Should they happen to pop in at a venue near you, try to see them if you can. All by himself, Seth made for a warm and memorable day at Decatur.
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Having said all that, we'll try to make this week's recap of Episode 15 as brief as possible. The 23 minutes revolved around a frequent AJ&L customer named Michael, who has the look and feel of a schlemiel whose ship comes in when he's standing at the bus station. Think Fredo. Or, if you're a bit older, a poor man's Charlie Callas. If this guy could afford a face tattoo, it probably would be a giant red "L" in the middle of his forehead.

(I understand some of the people who appear on Hardcore Pawn actually read this blog. Michael, should you ever see this, dude, my apologies. I calls 'em like I sees 'em.)

"I get money," he blows. "I don't care about anything but the cash." Yet every item he brings in for sale turns out to be, in the Ashley's words, "a ton of junk." She and Les see no reason the twitchy trader shouldn't be banished from the store – or at the very least given far less time and attention than Seth seems to lavish on him. 

But Seth counters (get this) that every customer at American Jewelry & Loan has value and deserves to be treated with attention and respect. And since Les turned the reins of the store over to Seth until the patriarch recovers from surgery (in Episode 14), that's how it's going to be. 

Does Seth watch this show? Was this episode filmed after he returned from Decatur?

Michael brings in a stack of oil paintings that look like they were ripped from a motel's walls: worthless. (In the process, however, we learn a new word, as Michael compliments Ashley and Seth as being "condosewers" of fine art. Try to tell me this show's not educational.) 

He returns with his mom's mink coat – in the middle of summer – that turns out to be silver fox. In the process, he gets in a shouting match with top store assistant Bobby J, who called BS on one of his previous deals and became Michael's sworn enemy.

Later he drives up with an attractive late-model car for sale – but forgets to bring the title. The dark cloud that hovers over his head is now in full downpour. 

At the last possible minute, however, Michael digs into his pocket and produces a surprise offering that not only rescues his rep with the store but also allows Seth to zing an "I told you so" at doubting Les and Ashley. All that's missing is the holding of hands and singing "Let There Be Peace on Earth" at the end.

Otherwise, it's business as usual: A young man brings in a used Xbox to raise cash to get his stripper girlfriend out of jail, then gets in Les' face when the fair price doesn't come close to what he needs. "He's lucky I'm under doctor's orders, or I would have bounced him out myself," Les declares. Whoa, easy there, tiger.

The "Did You See That?" moment arrives when a starving artist paints a 4x5-foot portrait of Les on the showroom floor in 10 minutes. Hey, Les does look a bit like Albert Einstein at that. But my favorite encounter involved a woman who came in to buy herself a birthday gift of jewelry only to have her smart-aleck son bad-mouth the merchandise – and the pawn shop – at every turn. 

When he finally disparages Seth, Mama goes off! "Who the f--- is you talkin' to, Boo-Boo?" she yells, smacking her son upside the head with her shoe, throwing her shoe at him on their way out, then returning to shake Seth's hand and apologize for his actions. "He wasn't raised like that," she says, and when's the last time you heard any mother mouth those words?

This episode merits a solid B+ for that scene alone.

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Old School, Shoe-Flingin' Mama had the potential to crack our ongoing list of the Top 5 Most Outrageous Hardcore Pawn Customer Ejections this season, had she and her son actually been ejected from AJ&L. But they left of their own accord, so the list remains the same as it has been for the last five episodes:

5. The "running naked guy" from Episode Ten who tried to blame security chief Byron for the floor lamp he knocked over in plain sight. After Byron responded to his accusation by showing him the door, he vented his outrage by stripping off his clothes and dashing au naturel around the store's parking lot yelling, "I make you horny bitches." A tough act to follow – as if anyone would want to.

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

3. "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!"
2. The belligerent, bare-butt bonehead from Episode Seven who pulled items off the shelves as Les looked on, then tried to sell Les's own merchandise back to him. When his scam was revealed, the ballsy burglar was dragged kicking to the exit – and his balls were about the only thing we didn't see as his jeans dropped to his ankles. "Time for your ass to be thrown out," Les ordered. "And what an ass that was."

And the returning champ among the three-fries-short-of-a-Happy-Meal crowd, proving the original often is still the best:

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 was summarily refused, he got the Byron Bounce and ended up humping one of the tall front-door pylons on his way to the parking lot.

Bet that camel from the Geico commercial would be pleased.

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