Hidden deep within the programming of Freeview television is a show that I’ve become mildly obsessed with of late, even though it changes channels and timeslots so often that it’s hard to keep track of when and where it’s going to pop up next. Currently occupying the pre-work breakfast slot on Dave, American Pickers is basically the Antiques Roadshow if all the guests were middle aged bikers with severe hoarding habits. It shows us a USA populated by dudes in dungarees in possession of tumbledown sheds packed with rusty petrol station signage, 1950s leather jackets and old pinball machines. If you like Americana – and we’re talking more diners, soda fountains and James Dean than the music of Fleet Foxes or the 1998 album by The Offspring – then this show will have you rubbing the thighs of your vintage Levi’s with glee.
Headed up by Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, “two ordinary guys looking for extraordinary things”, the duo travel the length and breadth of the United States in their truck, looking for houses to rummage through in order to buy up stock for their antiques store. It’s not the collectables they gather that are of real interest here though, it’s the people they meet. With more characters than a keyboard, Mike and Frank end up meeting some pretty out-there folk, from Mole Man Ron, who’s built himself an extremely precarious multi-room underground lair and tin-can artist Professor Bobo to the human time-machine Hobo Jack and a quirky guy by the name of Jack White, who runs some kind of old time-y record label in the wilds of Nashville. Buying a huge taxidermy elephant head from Mike and Frank, the former White Stripes man and record industry Willy Wonka isn’t the only rock star who’s made a cameo on the show. The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach has also popped up, salivating over old guitars as has Rick Nielsen of US rockers Cheap Trick, letting the guys into his storage lock-up to plunder his old merch.
One of the most popular shows on the History network in America – which also home of the quite mad Forged In Fire, which sees blacksmiths competing against each other to make a whole array of sinister looking weapons – the UK have tried to repeat this winning formula with homegrown version. Sadly, Salvage Hunters suffers from the fact that on these shores there just don’t seem to be as many loveable oddballs hidden away with nowt for company but a house full of broken motorcycle parts and despairing wife.