Tube Talk: ‘Picked Off,’ ‘Market Warriors’ picking for profit


The host and judges of History Channel's "Picked Off."

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

Wouldn’t you like to supplement your income by purchasing stuff at a low price and selling it for a profit? That’s one of the reasons American Pickers is among History’s highest-rated shows. Mike and Frank have been picking since they were kids, and constantly share hints about finding gems among the junk and negotiating better deals, but that’s only half of the job. Back home at the shop, Danielle has the hard part: selling their finds to make a profit.

They’ve been in the business long enough to have regular clients and to know exactly what collectors are looking for — things that remain a mystery to most viewers. Until now.

History’s new reality competition series, Picked Off, debuted last week. Hosted by former NFL player Keith Neubert, each episode of Picked Off pits four different teams of amateur pickers against each other, giving each team $100 — and a time limit — to buy something they could sell for profit. Antiques experts (and brothers) Ethan and Todd Merrill make “offers” on the items, and the team with the lowest offer goes home. The others use their profits to buy another treasure. That process continues until one team is left and the winners have parlayed their initial $100 into a $10,000 prize.

In a novel twist, immediately after Picked Off airs, the contestants’ finds will go up for auction via the History website.

PBS’s new series, Market Warriors, also has pickers competing for top honors, but in this case, they’re the same four professional antiques experts each week: Kevin Bruneau, Miller Gaffney, John Bruno and Bob Richter. Each has his or her particular strengths, but all are at home scouring flea markets across the country. As with the other show, these pros are on a budget and have a tight deadline, but their finds are actually auctioned off as part of each episode.

One of the highlights of Market Wars is sure to be the running commentary by actor and improviser extraordinaire Fred Willard, who is a long-time collector of sports memorabilia.

Both of these shows remind me of Bargain Hunt, a long-running British TV show that used to air on HGTV a few years back. That show had two teams of amateurs, and both teams had a professional antiques dealer on hand to advise them on things to look for or to avoid. Bargain Hunt contestants didn’t win any big prizes — the winning team got to keep whatever profit they made at auction, even if it was just a few quid.

If you’ve ever dreamed of finding a hidden treasure, perhaps you can pick up some valuable tips from Picked Off and Market Warriors before heading off to The Pec Thing flea market in September.

Programming notes

Picked Off airs at 9 p.m., Wednesdays, on History.

Market Warriors airs at 8 p.m., Mondays on PBS on WHA-Madison and 9 p.m., on WTTW-Chicago.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to

From the July 18-24, 2012, issue

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