We’ve never seen a reality show quite like Pawn Stars. The History Channel series has been on the air for over 10 years but is still so popular that the network increased the episode running time from 23 minutes to 44 minutes for its 16th season.
Given the high volume of content produced by the cast and crew each year, viewers have questioned whether the sales at Gold & Silver Pawn Shop are scripted ahead of time and if the drama shown on screen is manufactured for storytelling purposes. Scroll down for some behind-the-scenes facts about the Las Vegas-based series.
Is Pawn Stars real or staged?
According to insiders, there are elements of both on the weekly program. In 2016, a man named Mike Hoover claimed to have been an extra on the show and revealed what it was really like to film at the store.
"[Visited] as tourists and my friend decided to buy a Cartier watch for his wife," he explained. "The guy helping us said they were about to shoot a segment and asked if we would like to be extras and we said sure!"
The extra said the sale took almost an hour to shoot, which translated into just five minutes of airtime. "They reran several scenes," he shared. "They brought that cool museum guy in to validate the piece. It didn't appear to be scripted very much, but they did reshoot a couple of the negotiations."
He added that the customer "didn't 'just walk in' that day" and that producers "ran everyone out of the store except the 12 or so people that signed up to be extras."
In 2014, shop manager Travis Benton confessed that segments are crafted after the store’s pawn brokers "spot unique items and show them to producers who decide if they are worthy of broadcasting."
Because the filming days are planned in advance, sellers are typically told to come back at a different time. "Once an item is deemed 'possible TV material,' its seller is coached on how to act while on camera," the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote in an article.
"Some people have a great item to sell, but they appear nervous on film. It can take several tries to get it right, depending on the person... Producers have cut items from the show because the seller could not 'pull it together' on camera, but it doesn't happen often."
Some discussions take place off camera on Pawn Stars so as not to waste time.
In an interview with Odyssey, executive producer Brent Montgomery explained that sellers are vetted before they appear on the show. "Off camera we have to make sure that these people will actually sell the stuff at a reasonable price, otherwise they’re just trying to be on TV," he said, adding, "We figured that out fairly quickly."
Brent also shared that in the beginning, he had to tell the cast to purchase more of the items that were being brought in to the shop. "If we had a show where they never bought anything, it wouldn’t work well," he reasoned.
They’ve certainly figured out the perfect formula since then! You can watch new episodes of Pawn Stars Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on the History Channel.