Remember back in the day when things were made by hand, and people took pride in their work? My name's Rick Dale, and I bring these things back to life. Every restoration has its own set of challenges. There's no owner's manual for what we do, but there's no job we can't handle.
— Rick Dale, opening narration
American Restoration (also called Kings of Restoration overseas) is a show on The History Channel.Viewers were first introduced to the star of the show, Rick Dale, by his appearances on Pawn Stars, where he is the preferred restoration specialist of its protagonist Rick Harrison, owner of the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawnshop. Finding that Rick Dale was also an interesting fount of information, History decided to give him his own show to highlight the interesting work he does and his wacky cast of employees — Tyler, his son (from his first wife) and heir; Ron, his younger brother and picker/driver; Brettly, his stepson and resident New Meat; Kelly, Brettly's mother and Rick's second wife who handles their paperwork; Kowboy, the metal polisher; Kyle, Kowboy's best friend who deals with reassembly and finishing touches; and Ted, guest lettering artist and owner of Letter Perfect Inc.. Basically, think of a cross between Pawn Stars and American Chopper (which is amusing, considering that Pawn Stars is already a cross between American Chopper and Antiques Road Show).
This series provides examples of:
Anti-Climax: One episode spent quite a bit of time building up to Rick telling Brettly that he (Rick) intended to marry his (Brettly's) mom. When the moment actually came, Brettly basically just shrugged and said "Yeah, you guys are good for each other" and that was that.
The Bet: When Kyle and Kowboy find a very old Pepsi bottle at the bottom of a cooler they're restoring (they guess that the bottle must be about 40 years old), they make a bet about whether or not Kowboy will lose any parts from the cooler while they work on it. The loser has to drink the old Pepsi. In the end, both Kyle and Kowboy drink their respective half of the bottle after Kyle finds the missing part and Kowboy argues that Kyle is partially responsible for the mess.
Basically, once every several episodes either Tyler and Rick get into a Bet, or Rick and his crew get in on the Bet. For instance, when restoring a 1960s arcade strength-testing machine, the guys decide to see who is strongest, and Tyler suggests that the loser dress up in a hotdog costume and sell hotdogs on the street corner. Naturally, once they use the machine, Ron is the strongest, followed by Rick, Brettly, and Tyler.
Another bet involved the restoration of a 1978 Wetbike (ancestor for the Jet Ski). The owner bet that if one of the crew couldn't ride it without falling off, he would get a $3000 discount. Rick was able to pull it off.
Catch Phrase: Kowboy will often say, "If there's one thing you don't do, it's (thing someone did that annoyed Kowboy)".
When things don't go Ron's way, he'd usually say "Crap".
Or, less cynically, Brettly was pretty new when the show started, and since then has actually gotten better at his job and developed a sense of responsibility.
Cluster Bleep Bomb/Berserk Button: Never show Rick cars; he goes absolutely mad on them if he is shown one. Seriously, it must be seen to be believed: when Ron decided to buy an English Aston for $1500 and decided to show it to Rick, Rick on-air made one small bleep and then a two-second bleep.
Continuity Nod: The episodes are usually self-contained, with rare references to the past episodes. However, Rick and the crew do sometimes refer to the days at the old shop.
Every couple of episodes or so, Big Mike comes to the shop to have items restored.
The curator of the Nevada Northern Railroad Museum is a regular customer.
Given this is a show centered on an actual business, it's more a case of real life writing the plot, while trying not to focus too hard on internal company and family business and more on the items being restored.
Family Business: Rick's brother Ron and his son Tyler are both employees at the shop, with Tyler being the heir apparent to eventually take over the business.
And Brettly is his stepson.
Foregone Conclusion: Do you really think they're going to show items being brought in and their history being explained if people aren't going to let them restore it?
Actually, this has been shown happening at least once. The customer got the quote, attempted to bargain with Rick, Rick insisted that he simply couldn't get the project below his estimate, and apologized. He lamented that he hates having to do this and does it as little as possible, but in some cases it would simply lose the shop too much money to do it within the customer's budget.
This seems to be happening more often in newer episodes. It would seem that Rick's greater exposure has resulted in more "casual" collectors coming to him to seek restorations, as opposed to the more hardcore clientele he's used to who think nothing of dropping a five figures on something for their rec room.
In another episode, Rick was asked to restore an antique gun. Rick first consulted with an expert who told him of the gun's rarity. The expert advised him NOT to restore it. Rick and the client agreed. It's been said several times on Pawn Stars that collectors want a gun that shows its age and use, thus restoring or altering an antique gun destroys its value.
In one episode a client brought a damaged but still locked safe. After the experts Rick called opened the safe and it was emptied of its contents (there were some money inside) Rick examined the safe a second time and determined that the damage is just too severe, making it practically impossible to restore. The episode ended with Rick calling the client to give him the bad news.
Brettly in general, especially in earlier episodes.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kowboy is a good worker and takes pride in what he does, but Rick calls him "the grumpiest bastard I ever met", and when his interactions with the other employees are shown at more than a glance, he lives up to it.
Lazy Bum: Ron, the shop's delivery driver, and Rick's younger brother. He often takes advantage of his time on the road to indulge in other things that have nothing to do with work, like enjoying extra-long lunches or getting himself another tattoo. Tyler commented after joining Ron for one expedition that he now understood why it took Ron three hours to get back from the hardware store.
Which actually happened at least once. Rick reviewed the footage and chewed Ron out for wasting several hours on a job that took Tyler only a few minutes to actually complete - Ron wanted a new tattoo and delayed their trip back.
Missing Mom: It's unclear if Tyler's mom (Rick's ex) is alive or not.
Morality Pet: Kowboy's pet cat The Boy. A subplot in one episode involves him having to take him to the vet.
Paintball Episode: It gets kicked off by a pedal car modeled off of a Farmall tractor.
Product Placement: In some episodes, the camera pans to either the General Motors Corporation Badge, or one of the model badges. Averted whenever they need to provide historical info about an item.
Readings Are Off the Scale: The foot x-ray machine (known to be a big radiation leakage source to begin with) Is brought in to be restored. A radiation specialist is brought in to see if/how badly this one leaks. He turns it on and it leaks more radiation than Chernobyl. His detector doesn't read high enough to properly quantify the extent of the leakage.
Needless to say, the radioactive element is removed by professionals and the machine restored, without functionality, as it'd be far too dangerous.
Real Men Wear Pink: Embarrassingly subverted when one episode features the team restoring a Kotex vending machine for a breast cancer fundraiser auction. Despite all the strange items they've seen and restored, they're squeamish about the simple idea of the machine existing, much less having to restore it.
Re Tool: A new intro and commercial bumper trivia questions were added to the show after so many episodes.
Shout-Out: When restoring a 1978 Wetbike, Rick mentions that a prototype was ridden by James Bond in the film The Spy Who Loved Me. When the customer bets him that he can't ride it without falling off, Rick goes out to ride it in a white tuxedo and succeeds.