Jan. 31--Those of us who rely on Netflix to suck away some of our downtime await the days when our favorite shows finally, surprisingly, show up in our queues.
I'm eagerly looking forward to the day, should it ever come, that I can binge-watch "Murphy Brown." I was in braces last time I watched that great show. Apparently only the first season was released on DVD, and I cut the cable cord years ago, so I can't watch in syndication. I was pretty up on my politics as a tween/teen, but I might actually understand those John Sununu jokes now.
It wasn't Candice Bergen-level excitement, but recently I had another favorite show up in my Netflix queue: "American Pickers." I have a connection to that quirky History Channel show: The Pickers are based out of my hometown of LeClaire, Iowa. And those two fellows who look for "rusty gold" have helped revitalize that little river town. (More on that later.)
First, a primer for those of you who have missed it: "American Pickers" is a reality show that follows the travels of Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, who cross the country looking for old finds in people's garages and attics. Those diamonds in the rough are restored to their former glory (or some semblance of it) and they are sold out of the guys' Antique Archaeology shop in little old LeClaire.
These guys pride themselves in seeing dollar signs in stuff you or I would likely toss. Like "Pawn Stars," plenty of facts about those items or the time period they're from are broadcast during the show, making both programs worthy of being on the History Channel. (Remember, that channel airs stuff like "Ancient Aliens" sometimes; I think Frank and Mike more than qualify as educational compared with that.)
It is history, isn't it, whether it's a doll or a soda-pop advertisement made out of metal (or even a risque magazine)? It's all part of our past, and who knows -- watching two funny and affable dudes picking through garbage might get some people more interested in history than textbooks or windy documentaries (sorry, Ken Burns, but I made it an hour into "Prohibition" and liquor is naturally interesting, so what is going on with you?).
Visiting the Pickers
"Pickers" started airing in 2010 and has gained legions of fans. When my husband and I were in LeClaire once visiting my folks, we stopped by Antique Archaeology, just a stone's throw from Mother Hubbard's, the ol' gas station hangout.
It was fun, but there were so many people it was hard to move around in the relatively small shop. Many tourists are always on the lookout for staffer Danielle Colby, who's often seen on the show tracking down leads and keeping Frank and Mike in line. The patient worker I spoke with explained that Colby had started to work at night because she couldn't get much done during the day because of eager fans. This worker was used to hearing: "Hey, you're not Danielle!" I'm sure this never got old.
Danielle fact No. 1: This is no secret to her Facebook followers, but Colby is a burlesque dancer who performs as Dannie Diesel. Danielle fact No. 2: She has a sister who my stepfather says looks just like her, except for no obvious tattoos.
My husband and I bought a few things at Antique Archaeology and at Colby's nearby shop. It was a good day, and I smile every time I hear a story about a friend checking out LeClaire because of "Pickers."
Now, reality TV -- how real is it? Who knows. Sometimes when they're doing outside scenes where they're calling Colby "from the road" I can easily recognize it as being just a few blocks from my parents' home. My husband has told me about some Internet sniping that all the "Picks" are set up now anyway. My feeling is ... who cares? Enjoy it for what it is; all "reality TV" should be taken with a crunchy grain of salt anyway. "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" isn't a documentary.
And although Mike and Frank are famous now, they're still seen around town and known as nice guys, humble Midwesterners. My stepfather has offered to mow Frank's lawn when he and Mike are on "Pickers" trips. My husband saw Frank outside the shop last time we were home; it was his exciting Thanksgiving celebrity moment.
And besides the attention to their shop, the town has an "American Pickers" festival now. With its abundance of other antique shops, LeClaire has become a cool place to visit.
And that's the sweetest part for me. When I was in high school, LeClaire (population now closing in on 4,000) was, well, uncool. I went to a high school with some wealthy (read elitist) students who found anyone from LeClaire to be just simply distasteful. When I was at Iowa State University, I was in a group activity with a perfectly pleasant woman. When she found out I was from the Quad Cities area, too, she made a comment about "river trash" -- clearly not realizing she was speaking to said river trash.
And now those people, who turned their nose up at this little river town, line up to go see it. Pop on that.
And pass the remote.
This is the opinion of arts and entertainment reporter Kate Kompas. Follow her on Twitter @copygirlkate, or call her at 259-3620.
The "American Pickers" collection, an assortment of episodes from various seasons, is on Netflix. Quite a few full "Pickers" seasons are available on Amazon Prime. Watch full episodes and Web exclusives at www.history.com/shows/american-pickers/videos.
Visit LeClaire, Iowa
It's only six to seven hours by car! Check out http://visit.leclairechamber.com for information.
(c)2015 the St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, Minn.)
Visit the St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, Minn.) at www.sctimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
© Acquiremedia 2015