Last night, History debuted it’s latest collectibles reality television series, Cajun Pawn Stars, in the now familiar two back-to-back half-hour episode format. (I don’t know why these guys haven’t yet just committed to the full hour episode yet.) The commercials for the show made it seem like a blend of Pawn Stars and Oddities, seasoned with a dash of Swamp People. Is that what the show is really like?
After watching just the first two episodes, it’s clear this show is modeled after the wildly popular (and deservedly so) Pawn Stars. Set in the Silver Dollar Pawn & Jewelry Center, a well-established, 25 year old pawn shop located in Alexandria, Louisiana, Cajun Pawn Stars is also focused on three family members in this family-owned business: owner Jimmie “Big Daddy” DeRamus, Jimmie’s brother, Johnnie DeRamus, and Jimmie’s daughter, Tammie DeRamus. Here too are the trivia questions wrapped ’round the commercial breaks, the little facts and history notes in the corners, the outside experts brought in to authenticate and educate. Also part of the packaging and branding emulating the formula of success, the staff here wears matching polo shirts: Cajun Pawn Stars Purple, instead of Pawn Star Black.
It’s obvious that the producers of this new collecting show have realized that the audience is drawn to more than just the triad of ownership talent. Like Pawn Stars, which learned fast that Chum was a star and has been increasing the exposure of other staff members, Cajun Pawn Stars starts off right away including other pawn shop staff: Tina Journet, Fred (Yankee) Howell, Walt Piper, and Robie Friend. Like Oddities, the show also has realized the shop regulars are also likely to gain fans and followers, so Cajun Pawn Stars offers info on these folks who, it seems, will make semi-regular appearances on the show.
Of course, none of this is by accident or purely copying either; Cajun Pawn Stars is produced by Leftfield Pictures, which also produces Pawn Stars and Oddities. These folks know what they are doing. Which means if you like those shows, you should like Cajun Pawn Stars. I do. And, speaking frankly, Sunday night TV stinks; so this is most welcome!
The biggest “twist” involved in this spin-off seems to be organic to the pawn shop itself. A large part of their business includes animals, including farm animals, and the first two episodes featured a herd of donkeys as well as a pygmy goat. And gun laws are looser in Louisiana, so it seems gun lovers will see even more gun sales mixed in with the historical objects, pop culture artifacts (such as the first Jerry Lee Lewis recording from 1952), collectibles and other items.
I’ve only seen partial episodes of Swamp People, so I can’t say if there’s anything in common with that show besides location and accents; but, despite some mean-spirited shows, Cajun Pawn Stars doesn’t seem to be mocking the store, staff or residents — well, some of the regulars, perhaps… But not because of their location or any Southern-stereotype. These quirky guys seem to be aware of their humorous status. They are, as I say, a hoot and they know it. No harm done.
Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing more of Cajun Pawn Stars. It’s not a rip-off, but a well-done spin-off.
PS Note in the background, the Silver Dollar Pawn sign which features “Uncle” Pennybags, the guy from Monopoloy. I wonder how much that cost?