‘American Pickers’ Path To The History Channel Includes Some Wild Coincidences

by John Jamison

Sometimes, the big break comes from the least likely of places. For Mike Wolfe and his early ideas for “American Pickers,” that break came at a funeral. Believe it or not, he ran into a buddy from high school there who facilitated a connection Wolfe otherwise never would have made. The direct result? A History Channel show many of us have come to know and love.

Mike Wolfe struggled to pitch his idea for “American Pickers” longer than most would be willing to continue. It helped that he was already on the road, doing his picking job for real anyway. But still, Wolfe stuck with his idea for five years before making any significant headway. He knew he had something and only needed one production company to take a chance on him.

That company turned out to be JWM Productions. It wasn’t just a mom-and-pop shop either. JWM was producing a massive History Channel show at the time. So entertaining Mike Wolfe’s pitch reel wasn’t something they really needed to do. Let’s just say they’re awfully glad they did.

But how did all of this come to be in the first place? Making something worth selling is one thing. Getting it into the hands of the right people is another story.

“I was at a funeral of a friend’s father and ran into my high school buddy. He and I wrestled together in college. He later became the UFC champion. We started talking and discovered we were both trying to pitch shows and shared our ideas. He told me I should come down to his gym because production companies were always there, filming his fighters,” Wolfe told Scriptmag in 2013.

Sure enough, Wolfe gave the reel to his UFC friend, who in turn gave it to JWM. They liked what they saw, and the rest is history.

It Wasn’t All Smooth Sailing for Mike Wolfe on the Way to ‘American Pickers’

Put yourself in Mike Wolfe’s shoes. You’re passionate about your work and believe wholeheartedly you have something people would want to watch in “American Pickers.” For years, all you’ve had are doors slammed in your face, apologetic emails, and disappointing phone calls.

Finally, a network comes along and expresses some interest. Well, not a network exactly. But PBS is better than yet more rejection.

Naturally, Mike entertained the PBS representative’s thoughts. Wolfe didn’t like the direction the PBS man wanted to take things. The situation didn’t exactly end well.

“I was excited someone was interested. He started editing some of it. But it wasn’t my vision, and when I was completely honest with him about that, he got really mad at me, saying, ‘What do you know … I’ve been in television for 25 years?’ I said, ‘Well, I know this isn’t what I want.’ I had to physically throw him out of my house,” the “American Pickers” star told Scriptmag.