Several years ago, Beers became fascinated by the proliferation of 1-800-GOT-JUNK trucks on the road, so he decided to follow them around with cameras for a week. “The only thing interesting was that four times that week, they went to storage lockers,” Beers says. “So I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, what’s going on here?’ ”
With producer Dolph Scott in tow, Beers then went to a storage sale in L.A. being run by third-generation auctioneer Dan Dotson and his wife, Laura, who actually met 16 years ago at a restaurant-equipment sale (she was buying; he was selling). Beers was “totally sucked in” by that first sale and even paid $50 for a wardrobe locker which contained 20 pairs of high-end blue jeans. “It was like a treasure hunt. The idea that you open up a box and don’t know what’s in it never gets tired.”
In addition to the more piratical aspects of the auction world, Beers saw an angle for overlaying his scoreboard format on this scene. “No matter what it is, men want to make a sport out of anything — so if you put a score down at the end of something, it’s a sport,” Beers says. “Look at the crab counts on Deadliest Catch or the log loads on Ax Men. Men want to know who won and who lost. You add in a little bit of ‘these guys don’t like each other,’ and it just works.”
As it turned out, the Dotsons had just one week left on a development contract with another production company, which had discovered them after the couples’ YouTube videos went viral. Even better, Laura was a huge Beers fan — important given that the Dotsons had received offers from numerous production companies.
“He whips out his card and it says ‘Thom Beers,’ ” Dan recalls.
“He literally went pale,” Beers says. “He said, ‘Laura, Laura — this is Thom Beers.’ Then she went pale. It was cool.”
Beers’ Original Productions crew spent the next few months following the auctions, but courting talent took a bit longer than expected. Hester initially balked at the offer, not wanting to expose his underground cash machine. In the end, though, he acquiesced on the basis that if he didn’t do the show, “it would have been four other guys.”