How Netflix’s ‘Swap Shop’ Is Like an ‘American Pickers’-‘Pawn Stars’ Hybrid

by Jennifer Shea

When Netflix rolled out a show titled “Swap Shop,” fans of the vintage radio program format were excited. But this show is more of a hybrid of “American Pickers” and “Pawn Stars” than an homage to the “Swap Shop” radio program on WRGS in Tennessee, on which it is supposedly based.

Here’s how the typical radio swap show format worked, according to Reality Blurred. People looking for select items, or with select items to sell, gave out their phone number over the radio. Then interested parties called them to discuss a swap.

But that’s not how “Swap Shop” works. On the Netflix series, professional antiques collectors visit people to assess their antique items and make them an offer. It’s basically a cross between “American Pickers” – the History Channel show about antique collectors traveling the country in search of unique finds – and “Pawn Stars,” the History Channel show about a family-owned pawn shop in Las Vegas.

‘Swap Shop’ Was Inspired by East Tennessee Radio Station

“Swap Shop” reportedly grew out of a radio show on Rogersville’s WRGS that dates back to 1957. And in fact, the radio station recently held a watch party to celebrate the first six episodes of the Netflix series, per WBIR.

“Having the opportunity to bring the world in to follow us around was just a cool experience,” Jason Deel told WBIR. Deel is a show member and the owner of JD’s Realty and Auction.

“It’s a real-life treasure hunt. It’s the joy of finding stuff,” added Bobby Idles, a show member and the owner of The BobMart.

Still, listeners to the radio show may find the Netflix series something of a departure. It looks to be more of a play for fans of the aforementioned History Channel shows than a faithful interpretation of the radio program format.

Netflix Series Is a Reality Show, But with Some Calculation and Manipulation

“Swap Shop” is billed as a reality show. And it doesn’t appear to be scripted. But the cameras always seem to be on the right person at the right time, as The Cinemaholic points out. Fake? Not necessarily. But calculated and manipulated? Maybe.

That’s likely the result of the editing process and of producers occasionally asking cast members to re-enact their trades so the cameras can capture the action just right. And while it’s true that the players involved are veteran pickers, not actors, it’s also true that they aren’t random citizens, as was reportedly sometimes the case on radio swap show programs.

So, the upshot? If you like “American Pickers” or “Pawn Stars,” you’ll probably take to “Swap Shop.” But don’t expect something out of an old-fashioned radio program. As reality shows go, “Swap Shop” is very 21st-century.