July 11, 2014

Review: Pawnography

It's just like Win Ben Stein's Money. Just without most of the fun until the end.

History debuted its first quiz show in over a decade, Pawnography, on July 10th. The show, a spin-off of the network’s popular reality show Pawn Stars, pits two contestants against its three stars in a trivia game to win cash and items from their pawn shop. It’s had inevitable comparisons to Win Ben Stein’s Money, and after watching it, it’s definitely in the same vein.  They just forgot to have any fun until the very end.

Each round sees contestants face off against a Pawn Star for money and a prize. In the first round the two contestants play against Rick and Chumlee. Questions are worth $100 a piece. If a contestant is ahead at the end of the round they earn the prize up for grabs (for now). If a Pawn Star is ahead, though, the prize stays.

Round two doubles the questions to $200 and now they play against Richard Harrison. The same rules apply, but the person with the lowest score goes home empty handed. The champion faces off against the three Pawn Stars in an all-or-nothing end game for a grand prize (a high valued item from the store).

The champion, and then the Pawn Stars, play the same 10 questions in 60 seconds. The main catch is they aren’t told if they are right or wrong just yet. After both have played, the champion and Richard will negotiate a buy-out to end the game. Think of it like a bank offer on Deal or No Deal. If the offer is taken the champion leaves with that. If it’s not taken and the champion beat the Pawn Stars, the champion gets the prizes and the money. If the champion loses, though, the champion leaves with nothing.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the show. It’s a standard buzzer quiz with little frills so you can’t fault them there. The only issue is that it just isn’t very fun. There’s little humor or anything different or unique or fun up until the very end. I’m not saying to outright copy Win Ben Stein’s Money but they could have had way more fun with this than they did. It doesn’t even seem like the Pawn Stars are really that excited to be there until the end.


Again, the only time anything gets fun or different is the ending bribe. I’ve seen features like this in some European shows, where one person can try to buy-out a challenger in a quiz instead of seeing if they won or lost. However, I’ve not seen it in America and it was really the only part of the show which kept my attention or had me actively paying attention.

While nothing is wrong with Pawnography, they just forgot to have fun with it. I’m not saying it needs to be a laugh riot. But they’re coming off a pretty popular, engaging, and fun reality show. And they didn’t bring much of that here. People who like quizzes as dry as they get may enjoy it. Beyond that, it’s offering nothing new. It’s serviceable but it’s nothing to worry about missing an episode of.