There was a time when American Pickers was my favorite TV show (of the ones currently broadcasting). Even amid allegations that the show is staged (what reality series isn’t?), it was always a treat to see what the presenters, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, would find on their next middle-of-nowhere road trip.
When the series announced an upcoming visit to my former home town of Lawrence, Kansas, in 2018, I was intrigued. But when many long months passed with no updates, I emailed a friend back in Lawrence to find out if the show and crew had been through town. Turns out the visit got canceled before it could happen, but this wasn’t widely publicized at the time. (The show still made stops in Kansas City, but I never did catch the episodes that filmed there.)
The draw of American Pickers is hard to explain if you’ve never seen an episode. It’s basically two guys (sometimes guy and girl) driving around the dusty backroads of the U.S. (typically the South or Upper Midwest), searching for “rusty gold”. They’ll trawl through ramshackle outbuildings, sheds, detached garages, cellars, attics, finding and acquiring anything they can resell for a profit. They especially would buy motorcycles, vintage bicycles, rusted-out Packards (often lodged under a tree for 60 years). Little bits of history and interviews with the property owners were interspersed with idle chitchat between Wolfe, Fritz and some of the colorful recurring characters on the show.
One of the things that made the series work, from its first episode in 2010 until the last episodes with Fritz aired in 2020, was the chemistry between Wolfe and Fritz. It made the show work.
But, sure enough, as of March 2020, Frank was gone from American Pickers. Fired, if you believe press reports. It doesn’t look like he’s coming back.
Fritz was the heart of thew show. Sure, Wolfe is the “brains”, the show’s creator and a producer. But Frank Fritz brought something to the equation. (It’s just one of those things that’s hard to explain.)
I’m really trying to quantify what Frank Fritz brought to the series. Maybe it’s just that he came off as a super-normal guy who’s in it for the gear, the motorcycles, getting to know the folks he’d meet all over the U.S. Or maybe that it’s that he never seemed to mug for the camera. He was just there, enjoying himself, enjoying discovering new “picks”, just having a good time. And we, the viewers, had a good time along with him.
Frank’s replacement on the latest (2022’s season 23, for those keeping track) batch of episodes is Robbie Wolfe, older brother to Mike. Robbie is fine, but he doesn’t really bring the same je ne sais quoi to the show that Fritz did. Viewers noticed, and stopped watching in droves.
That’s why I say it’s time to give Frank his own TV series. Give him a camera crew and a sound person. The show could be about practically anything. I’d watch. I know a lot of Pickers fans would watch, too. I mean, it could be about showing off Frank’s motorcycle collection. Or a show devoted to his tattoos. Anything.
I’m not that far off. It appears Frank has pitched his own show to network executives. This is a good idea. The man can obviously handle the rigors of daily production, and, to repeat myself: the guy could talk about his matchbox collection and people would watch.
So someone, please, give Frank Fritz his own show.