‘American Pickers’: Mike Wolfe Nearly Started the Show in Europe After TV Networks Passed

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Scott Hamilton CARES)

Mike Wolfe’s reality show American Pickers has been a huge success throughout its 11 years on the History Channel. But strangely, Wolfe had a hard time getting a network to pick up his series in the United States. And at one point, he had been turned down so many times that he almost got his start in Europe.

Back in 2013, Mike Wolfe headed to a house in Upstate New York, which happened to be owned by the mother of Jeanne Veillette Bowerman, who is a writer for Script. So Bowerman took the opportunity to meet the American Pickers host and ask him a few questions.

While she was there, she learned that Wolfe’s series came from humble beginnings. He began his concept on his Antique Archeology blog. With the help of a local “23-year-old kid”, he posted short videos to the site. Then after a while, Wolfe went out on his own and began filming and producing his segments alone.

And before Mike Wolfe won a contract with Discovery, he was turned down a lot. In fact, Wolfe said that at one point, he had been turned down by every single network in America. But he wasn’t going to give up on his dream. So he decided to try Networks in other countries.

Mike Wolfe Pitched ‘American Pickers’ to a European Agent

“I thought to myself, I’m going to start pitching this thing overseas,” Wolfe admitted. “I reached out to an agent online, and he was also what they call in Europe, a presenter instead of a host, of an antique show over there.”

Since Europe was famous for shows like Antique Roadshow and Cash in the Attic, Wolfe thought the networks over there would be interested in a concept like American Pickers. And he was right. The European agent loved his idea. And Wolfe “was just an inch away” from signing a contract with him when Sara Kosak from TLC called.

“She was one of the people who I had called asking ‘why do you hate my show, why won’t you carry it?’ She was the first one who encouraged me… and she was so cool… she didn’t know me at all,” he said. “But she gave me so much of her time. She explained I had a lot of leaves but no tree. The videos that I had were great, but there was no format. Plus the production company had no format. That’s a big open question. People liked me on camera, they like the people I filmed, but I had no show without a format.”

Kosak thought Mike Wolfe kept hitting dead ends because his idea wasn’t fully developed. So she ended up helping him nail down the format of American Pickers. And she was just as determined as him to find the series a home. Shortly after she began working with Wolfe, she found a friend at a production company called Cineflix who was interested in meeting Wolfe. And that meeting eventually led to his contract with Discovery.