Mike Wolfe discussed the long and tortured journey to get American Pickers on television several times in the past. But less talked about are the times he almost got the show off the ground only to have it fall apart at the last minute. American Pickers is now in its 22nd season on the History Channel. It’s one of the network’s biggest hits ever, and it looks how Mike envisioned it. But Wolfe had to fight — literally — to make that happen.
Wolfe said he knew right away that the idea for the show would work. He needed to get someone to believe in the concept as much as he did. Mike would film his picks and pass off the footage to his editor — a 23-year-old named Justin — who cut the segments and put them on Mike’s website. It worked. Mike Wolfe said American Pickers started to get attention from networks and producing partners.
One of the first was a man from PBS, Wolfe told ScriptMag.
“I was excited someone was interested,” Wolfe recalled. “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. It was crazy … and then I was all by myself again.”
Wolfe Got First Break for ‘American Pickers’ Thanks to UFC Champ
We know how the story of American Pickers ends, but Wolfe said for years he assumed the show would never happen. He believed in the idea, but he didn’t know anyone in the entertainment industry. Social media in 2008 wasn’t what it is today, so he felt he’d hit a dead end with the project.
But he caught a big break thanks to a former UFC champion.
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. I went and gave him the reel I put together, and he gave it to a company called JWM, who at that time were making the History Channel’s number one show, ‘Digging for the Truth’. History was always where I saw the project going, so I was excited to sign with these guys.Mike Wolfe, ScriptMag
JWM wasn’t able to sell the show at that time. But Wolfe said he learned a lot during that process. So, after they dropped him, he went to work on his own. Eventually, after more than five years of pitching, he was able to sell the show and grow American Pickers into an empire.