by Jim McFarlin
The landmark half-hour, which aired at 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 16, on the cable network, also merited a special invitation-only screening Tuesday evening at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak. Attendees included the series principals Les Gold, his son Seth Gold and daughter Ashley Gold Broad, proprietors of the now-legendary American Jewelry and Loan on Eight Mile at Greenfield.
To many Detroiters, Hardcore Pawn is the prosperous, affluent relative you don't talk about because you're embarrassed by how he makes his fortune. The show launched its seventh season last month as the most successful series in truTV history, drawing the network's largest audience ever in TV's coveted 18-to-49 year-old demographic and routinely attracting more than 3 million viewers each week. The 100th episode, generally considered the benchmark for syndication purposes, means the Golds could remain TV mainstays long after the show ceases production.
However, much of the show's success revolves around its crude, rough-and-tumble nature, marked by profanity-laced customers (and owners), violent in-store confrontations and physical ejections from the building by mountainous security people. It's a consistent format that causes some locals to denounce the show for not depicting the city in a positive light to its worldwide audience.
Given that history, it was surprising that the 100th episode of Hardcore Pawn overpromised – through a weeklong series of promo commercials that vowed "100 times more" deals and action – and underdelivered. In contrast even to the first three shows of this season, Tuesday's fourth installment seemed almost subdued.
This episode's premise centered around an employee who devised his own side hustle to sell customers front-of-the-line privileges for a $3 tip at the door, causing havoc inside the pawn shop. Ashley, reacting to the irate customers waiting their turns, employed her detective skills to identify the culprit.
The family conflict in this episode arose over whether to fire Anton, the enterprising worker who conceived the tip-jar scam. Seth wants him out, no mercy or second chances. In the end, however, compassion came from a most unlikely source.
The highlight of the program, especially for longtime Detroiters, was the arrival of an immaculately restored, 1947 replica of a green Vernor's ginger ale delivery truck that the seller was willing to part with for $45,000. Les ultimately walked away from the deal, but should have bought at any price. (Vernor's is a symbol of Detroit, and the truck was very sweet).
However, the show's laugh-out-loud moment occurred when a customer tried to sell Les an "I-Grow Laser Hair Growth System" – essentially, a heat lamp inside a goofy-looking silver helmet with suction cups and headphones – and Bobby, American Jewelry and Loan's follically-challenged employee, volunteered to try it on.
The device caused the top of Bobby's round dome to light up with a neon red glow.
"You look like a Christmas tree," Les remarked.
"I look like a (bleep)," Bobby replied.
The kicker: the seller himself was bald. "Well, I didn't use the thing," he maintained. "I'm very happy being bald."
First-run episodes of Hardcore Pawn air at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on truTV.
Jim McFarlin writes about media for the Metro Times. Another version of this story, including reasons why Detroit should embrace Hardcore Pawn and the show's Top 5 customer ejections of the season, can be found on McFarlin's TV blog, Big Glowing Box. Follow him on Twitter, @BigGlowingBox.