“ Manufacturer: Spike / TV Programs Genre: Entertainment „
So American Digger, the latest in a long line of reality documentary shows from the United States to show up on Freeview, that dabble in hidden antiquities and resalable goods for profit, Toy Hunter, Pawn Stars and Storage Hunters to name but three. What they also have in common is they all feel rather contrived and strangely entertaining. I wouldn't say it was all staged but they do seem to come up with a very valuable item in every auction or exploration dig site on queue, certainly the case in American Digger.
The concept sees former professional wrestler Frank Huguelet (aka Ric Savage), a larger than life character in every way, and his company 'American Savage' search America for lost relics of the past, using heavy earth moving kit, metal detectors, ground radar and s simple trowel. That bit is plausible as treasure hunters are fairly common in America as they rake over the old Civil War sites and Indian reservations etc looking for treasure. But as with all of these shows they seem to find something special and of great value when nobody else has over those decades and centuries and so you are immediately suspicious. If you read the disclaimer at the end of the show it does suggest there a lot of 'recreations' in the show. There is also an applied time pressure to the show that they only have daylight hours to find something or they are out of pocket, yet add at the end of the show they found another 12 grand's worth of stuff on the trip and so all is well.
SO Ric, his young son Giuseppe, antiquities and historian Rue Shumante and technician Bob Buttafuso growl into town in their shiny black American Savage SUV like the devil and begin knocking on doors. They pre-research the treasure site and offer private landowners on that area cash to dig up their garden or land, promising to return the ground to how it was in just 24 hours time. Whatever they find they split 80/20 with the landowner although that figure is negotiable. For some reason many householders are not that keen on that chance to strike it rich and doors slammed in Ric's faced.
As I say they research the dig sites and so expect to find something, a grand's worth a day minimal to cover their expenses. The dig sites range from old battlefields to Indian reservations or the more quirky New Orleans hoar house from the first ever episode to illegal stills from the prohibition era. This variety and discussion of the history of the objects they find make the show interesting and the team's knowledge of their job quite surprising. When Ric dramatically finds something of big value he does his signature war cry to the skies of BOOOOM Baby! Whether that object has been placed there by the production crew earlier like an Easter Egg hunt is debatable but he sure as hell finds some good stuff. In the first season his team drilled into an ancient fossil packed ocean bed that just so happened to be just far enough down in the West Virginia Hills for regular treasure hunters not to be able to get at, but a days drilling enough to earn for Team Savage, finding a very rare dinosaur tooth.
The digs are good fun and whether faked or not you learn something from their finds and foolish enough to make you think about dusting down your old metal detector. Many of us had those when were kids and many of us found only ring pulls and horseshoes. I believe the company knows something about what they are doing but this is America and they are after hard cash over preserving the countries history, the biggest accusation against the show. But as Ric points out, if it's under the ground then you can't preserve anything because nobody knows about it. What looks as faked is the trip to the experts shop to try and sell the stuff, the owners always having a few thousand dollars in cash to hand ready to buy.
As the American Savage company has only been going a year before the show came to air there is more than a suggestion that the chicken came before the egg here, a production company building a big idea round a smaller reality. As Ric Savage was a pro wrestler he more than capable of putting on a show and faking it. I'm minded to believe most of its waffle but still great fun to watch on Quest on a soggy afternoon with summer hiding behind the gray clouds. If you take it seriously then you will not watch it. Like with Storage Hunters, you know that has to be a certain amount of theatre to make it work for TV. I don't believe these shows are packed full of actors but just that the people in them want to be famous by being on them and so act up.
In December 2012, Spike TV (their Dave equivalent) announced that American Digger would be renamed Savage Family Diggers for its second season premiering January 30, 2013. The name change better reflects Ric Savage's current status after he was booted of the established magazine of the same name, American Digger Magazine canceling their relationship with him because of his uncouth treasure hunting TV antics. Tearing up the ground with a JCB is more likely to smash rare antiquities than preserve them for history. In the second season the crew adds Savage's wife Rita and second son Nick to the dig team.