It's an oppressively humid late-May afternoon in downtown Nashville, Tenn. In roughly 48 hours, a History channel production crew will shut down several city blocks to film a lavish new American Pickers promotional spot, and today the commercial's director and choreographer are putting Mike Wolfe and a handful of extras through the paces of a dress rehearsal.
That's right, choreographer. The tongue-in-cheek spot, which cleverly updates Dr Pepper's long-running "I'm a pepper" campaign to "I'm a picker," features Wolfe and co-host Frank Fritz pirouetting their way through the city streets--pied pipers of picking trailed by dozens of dancing acolytes.
Neighborhood merchants and their patrons begin spilling out onto the sidewalk. "I love your show!" squeals one woman. "I just did my first pick--a 1918 Singer sewing machine!" Wolfe gives her a high-five. A dreadlocked skater dude sidles over from his perch outside a tattoo parlor, asking, "Hey, man, can I get a picture with you?" Wolfe obliges before turning back to the production crew.
Wolfe surveys the scene around him, a broad grin on his face. "We've come a long way, huh, dude?" he says, bumping fists with History channel writer/producer Matt Neary, who has worked on American Pickers since its premiere.
The discussion returns to the commercial shoot. Wolfe gets confirmation that the crew has hired the Nashville-area hair and makeup technicians he requested. "I'm a businessman in this community now," he tells them. "It's really important to touch base with the locals."
About 90 minutes in, the rehearsal winds down. Despite the heat, the choreographer's demands and the fan frenzy, Wolfe is unflappable. "Are you having fun?" cracks a crew member.
Wolfe replies, with mock incredulity: "How can you not have fun doing this?"
Chicago-based writer Jason Ankeny is the executive editor of Fiercemobile content, a daily electronic newsletter dedicated to mobile media, applications and marketing.