By David Bauder
NEW YORK – Even in television, where good ideas are routinely imitated, the debut of ‘Hardcore Pawn‘ on TruTV next week is enough to make you marvel.
Just like one of the year’s breakout hits, History’s ‘Pawn Stars,’ it’s a reality series about a family run pawn shop. Both are effectively comedies, drawing on the everyday absurdities of the workplace. Both play on the similarity of “pawn” to “porn” for their titles.
And both are in the same time slot: Monday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern.
Well, yes, according to Marc Juris, executive vice president and general manager of TruTV.
“Quite honestly, we did absolutely nothing different than we would have done whether or not the other show was on the air,” Juris said. “We look for shows that really hit our sweet spot and when they’re right for our audience is when we put them on the air.”
‘Hardcore Pawn’ was in development for more than a year and two test episodes were aired in December, he said. ‘Pawn Stars,’ in its third season this year, has seen its viewership jump by 38 percent over the second season. The July 5 episode was seen by 6.3 million viewers, the biggest audience ever for the cable network, the Nielsen Co. said.
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The TruTV series stars the patriarch of Detroit’s sprawling American Jewelry and Loan, the nearly too-good-to-be-true named Les Gold, along with his son Seth and daughter Ashley.
As suggested by the title, ‘Hardcore Pawn’ is rougher around the edges than the History series. A customer bringing in a cannon to the “pawn stars” would trigger an examination of its history. TruTV has a customer with a homemade cannon that Gold just wants to see blow up in his parking lot.
The first ‘Hardcore Pawn’ also features a profanity-spewing woman who threatens Gold when he doesn’t hand over jewelry, and the store’s purchase of a stripper’s pole. Yes, several potential buyers try it out.
The show earned the same time slot as ‘Pawn Stars’ because it’s a nice fit with ‘Operation Repo,’ a series about auto repossession that airs at 9 p.m. on Mondays, Juris said.
“We’re certainly not going to change our schedule or our strategy because of one show on another network,” Juris said. “That really isn’t servicing our audience well — that comes to us on Mondays expecting a certain kind of show.”
Nancy DuBuc, president and general manager of History, said she couldn’t speak to whether TruTV’s choice is truly a coincidence.
“I haven’t seen the show,” she said. “There’s no mistaking the power of the show that we’ve launched.”
In the world of cable TV reality, successful ideas rarely stand alone: Hence the outbreak of shows about abnormally large families and high-end pastry decorators. History has been on the other side, too. Discovery accused the network of playing off its own successful ‘Deadliest Catch‘ series with History’s ‘Ice Road Truckers‘ when that debuted a few years back. Both are shows about tough jobs in forbidding climates.
DuBuc said she’s not concerned that ‘Hardcore Pawn’ would dilute the success of ‘Pawn Stars’ or cause it to burn out more quickly. She noted that shows inspired by the success of similar ideas rarely match the originals.
“I feel very confident that our series and our family has a strong foothold on this genre,” she said.
Pawn shops are interesting settings for TV shows because of characters such as Gold — a balding man who wears a leather jacket and big gold chain in the debut episode, and curses at his security force, Juris said. There’s also no telling what type of things people will try to sell and the different ways they try to make deals.
“It makes you look at the world in a different way,” he said. “I’ve never gone in to a pawn shop. I’ve just sort of walked by them. If you give me an opportunity to step inside without leaving my home, it really is a fascinating world.”
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