Don’t Expect to Fawn Over Pawn Shop Live!


The cast of Pawn Shop Live!

Borrowing the bartering vernacular of Pawn Stars: How much is it worth to see Pawn Shop Live!, the Golden Nugget’s new afternoon hot mess?

We’d suggest a penny. But only if you could get change back.

Wildly undisciplined, this spoofy takeoff on The History Channel’s Vegas-based uber-hit about the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop is embarrassingly silly and frequently cringe-worthy.

Surely, director/co-writer Troy Heard wants us to think of this as an hour-plus of hellzapoppin’ comic anarchy, its sloppiness palmed off as broad parody, its limp wit served up in volume, as if it were a bad buffet. Yes, the food’s lousy, but at least there’s lots of it!

Riffing on the real Pawn Stars (shop owner Rick Harrison; his dad “Old Man” Harrison; Rick’s son Corey, a.k.a “Big Hoss”; and Corey’s friend, Chumlee), Live! gives us, respectively, Slick (Sean Critchfield), Old Fart (a half body-sized puppet operated by Enoch Scott), Lil’ Boss (Gus Langley) and Chump (Garret Grant). Rounding out the campy cast are Anita Bean in multiple roles, and showgirls played by Sidney Kounkel and Kady Heard. (Plus a recorded intro and outro by Robin Leach in his Fleet Street-y unctuousness.)

Rather than anchor this parody to what makes the series so oddly watchable—the dynamic among the family of shop operators and, especially, the haggling with Average Joe and Average Jane over the worth and authenticity of their oddball items—this show elects to tell the back story of how the shop came to be, semi-based on Rick Harrison’s memoir, License to Pawn. Spliced with video bits, it’s a vaudevillian history lesson that isn’t particularly interesting, compounded by egregious hamminess and screeching. We wait nearly 45 minutes into a barely 70-minute show for any customer interaction. When it arrives, it’s largely lamebrain caricatures of the likes of Phyllis Diller and Criss Angel (both cartoonishly overcooked by Bean).

Attempt to out-Brooks Mel Brooks at your peril. At least the Blazing Saddles/Young Frankenstein genius riffed on entire genres, justifying his everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink style. On this modest scale, the effect is like bombing a bathroom—way too much bang expended on a small-bucks target. (Speaking of which, boom-voiced Scott races between puppet operator and a party sampler of roles with remarkable agility and bombast, but rarely has an actor worked so hard in the service of so little.)

One’s heart breaks for Heard and Critchfield, two of our community theater scene’s biggest talents, whose attempt to cut in on the casino showroom action is an amateurish misfire of major proportions. C’mon guys—you’re better than this. Fellow community alum Sirc Michaels pulled off the Strip leap with Evil Dead The Musical and you’re no less skilled.

Without the comic discipline even a parody requires, wackiness is just tackiness and going over the top isn’t hilarious, just tedious. Knowing the difference between what’s genuine and what’s bogus is the DNA of Pawn Stars. Not knowing is why Pawn Shop Live! is DOA.

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