Maine’s latest role on reality TV wasn’t concocted by a team of Hollywood writers trying to come up with the next “Duck Dynasty” or “Pawn Stars.” The idea for “Down East Dickering” was ripped from the pages of Maine’s 44-year-old bargain hunter’s bible, “Uncle Henry’s Weekly Swap Or Sell It Guide.”
The show is set to premiere at 10 p.m. April 2 on the History cable network. Over eight episodes, it will follow the exploits of 10 penny-pinching readers as they scour the guide and then dicker with other frugal New Englanders for a tractor part, a hunk of scrap metal, a cow or a bicycle.
“This is about as real as a reality show can get,” said Kevin Webb, general manager of the Uncle Henry’s publications and website, based in Augusta. “These are not actors, they are people who read Uncle Henry’s and do deals.”
Webb said he decided a few years ago that the dickering skills and rural journeys of Uncle Henry’s readers would make good TV. He started auditioning readers on his own, without backing from a network or production company.
He sought interest from production companies, with History eventually deciding to pick up the show. It’s being produced for History by Hollywood-based Pilgrim Studios.
“Down East Dickering” is just the latest in a growing field of reality shows spotlighting Mainers doing slightly quirky things.
Animal Planet’s “Cold River Cash,” which debuted in January, follows Maine eel fishermen competing for high-priced hauls of the slimy creatures.
Maine game wardens have been chasing wildlife and outlaws on Animal Planet’s “North Woods Law” for two seasons, and a third is being filmed.
And a crew working for National Geographic Channel was at the Sebago Lake Ice Fishing Derby in mid-February to film a yet-unnamed show on ice fishing.
Susan Ievoli, director of publicity for History, said Monday that the latest show will focus on 10 Uncle Henry’s readers, eight from Maine and two from other New England states. She said the Maine “dickerers” are from Sangerville, Bethel and Minot.
The show won’t be a competition, or offer any prizes. It will simply follow the “dickerers” as they try to “make a quick buck” with their deals.
Ievoli did not give the full names of the cast members, but said they will be available for interviews later. Some of the first names of cast members are Tony, Clint and Yummy, she said.
A YouTube trailer of “Down East Dickering” features bearded men in ball caps and winter hats, some standing before rusting heaps of junk, talking about their passion for dickering.
“I brought a guy four loads of horse manure for a bicycle,” a man says as various scenes speed by on the screen.
“It’s a secret aht, not done with a computer or a smaht phone, it has to be done face to face,” another voice says.
The words “Never pay retail, ever” are heard near the end of the video.
Uncle Henry’s list of things for sale and potential swaps provides a certain insight to a side of Maine that tourists and outsiders don’t often see.
One recent ad featured a 1996 Cadillac Concours that “drives good.” It said the owner wanted to swap for a “4×4 ATV” or a “nice riding lawn mower.”
A recent ad under “Free for the taking” told of seven “very large, 6-month-old roosters.”
In an ad for a size 7 silver ring, the owner asked for $40 and said he was looking to sell it because his wife doesn’t wear rings.
“It will be a different story line every show, because every Thursday these guys get the book and find something different,” Webb said.
Pilgrim Studios, the company that began filming “Down East Dickering” last year in Maine, has turned out more than two dozen well-known cable TV reality series. The company’s list of shows includes “Ghost Hunters,” “Wicked Tuna,” “Dirty Jobs” with Mike Rowe, and “Swamp Loggers.”
Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:[email protected]