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We were well into the pandemic when news came down the pipeline: longtime duo Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz were breaking up the band. The news was somewhat a surprise when it first broke, but those who followed American Pickers and its stars on social media knew that Wolfe’s longtime driving partner had already been off the air for some time when his exit from the History Channel series became a certain reality.
What followed was a lot of brouhaha. Back and forth comments between Wolfe and Fritz were spoken through the media and, in some cases, social media as the show continued airing on the TV schedule. Fingers were pointed. Health issues were documented and feelings were explored. A fan movement (“Bring Frank Back”) was spawned. Then tragedy struck. The feud between the two American Pickers stars is a long and storied one, so buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy read.
Early 2020: Frank Fritz Took A Voluntary Leave Of Absence
Most of us think of March of 2020 as the month the world shut down and many of us remained at home. For the History Channel star, it was the month his final Pickers episode aired. At the time, we’d learned Frank had voluntarily taken a leave of absence from the show to deal with what he says was a back issues. From information we got later, it was reportedly so much more.
July 2021: Rumors Swirled Fritz Was Not Returning To The Show
In the summer of 2021, there were whispers things were not well with the cast of the reality show. Frank Fritz had been open about leaving the series for a time to deal with a bad back (and surgery), as well as Crohn’s Disease issues and alcohol problems. He lost weight and got healthy. By the summer of 2021, the longtime star realized it might not be that easy to return, noting at the time, “I was doing it for 11 years, but there is a lot of controversy going on right now.”
July 2021: Mike Wolfe Confirmed The Rumors
When Frank said there was “controversy” going on with his potential return to the show, he also noted his co-host pal had not reached out in two years. So while rumors were swirling, there was a lot of evidence of trouble in paradise. Just a few days later, Wolfe confirmed Frank Fritz’s exit, writing to fans on social media:
The journey that Frank, Dani and I started back in 2009, like all of life, has come with its highs and lows, blessings and challenges, but it has also been the most rewarding... I will miss Frank, just like all of you, and I pray for the very best and all good things for him on the next part of his journey.
If only it all had ended there.
August 2021: Danielle Colby Broke Her Silence On American Pickers BTS Drama
After Mike Wolfe confirmed his former road tripping buddy would not be back, Frank Fritz started talking to the press about “regrets,” namely that he wished he had stopped drinking five years earlier than he did. He continued talking to the press in the days that followed and eventually his other co-star felt the need to speak out. From her side of things, there was a lot of “pain” Frank had caused while still on the show and she wanted to set the misinformation straight, writing in August of 2021:
Frank caused so much pain for himself that it has been hard to watch. I truly hope Frank receives all the help he needs to become well after years of being unwell. It is not my place to speak Ill of someone who needs help so I will keep my comments uplifting.
Clearly, there was a lot that had gone on behind the scenes during the creation of the History Channel show. Colby seemingly gave fans a look at the bigger picture without spilling all the tea, but she made it clear there was a strong fissure between the cast and Fritz, here.
August 2021: Frank Stopped Playing Nice
While early on, Frank’s narrative was one of change and growth, after his former co-stars said their piece, he stopped playing so nicely. In the month of August, the former reality star’s commentary changed. He said the statement Wolfe had made was “bullshit” and also said no one had even called to check on him, ending a mini rant with an angry “fuck you.”
Things were getting tenser, not less tense.
Mid-August 2021: The Back And Forth Between The Two Stars Continued
While originally the remaining History channel stars had been a little cagey about Frank Fritz’s personal struggles, eventually the back and forth kept going in the press to the point where Wolfe made an attempt to be clear about why his former pal was not being asked back. In Mid-August, Wolfe straight up wrote:
We all do care about Frank and we want him back on the show. I would love to talk with him again, we would absolutely love to, but he just can't get it right. Frank is just going through a lot personally with addictions. It's unfortunate that he's made decisions that have him the way he is.
The reality star had been candid about previously being sober from alcohol for 11 months, and there seemed to be more to the tale, but Fritz also reiterated his sobriety after Mike's comments came down the pipeline in August. He said:
I went to rehab and I’ve been sober now for 11 months. I didn’t like drinking anymore. My mom was an alcoholic and she died five years ago and it was alcohol-related. My grandfather was an alcoholic and he died. That didn’t sit well with me.
When Frank first left Pickers, and even when there was hope he might be able to return to the show, he'd had a better attitude about it. But his emotions seemingly changed over time.
January 2022: American Pickers Returned To The Schedule
Normally a new season of picking is a reason to rejoice, but 2022 was a weird year for the fanbase. The show came back in January, but it was without the normal cast. A very vocal portion of the fanbase started hashtags in places like Twitter and Facebook to express their disapproval. The ratings suffered on American Pickers. A slew of comments rolled around with fans asking about “loyalty” and asking the series to #BringFrankBack.
Meanwhile, the series brought on Mike Wolfe’s brother, Robbie, for the January premiere, and he’s remained a fixture on the series in the time since. Though Robbie had dropped by in the past, he was seen as a replacement for Frank, and some people weren’t happy about it.
The show was back, but it had seemingly lost some of its magic.
March 2022: Frank Fritz Dealt With More Troubles
After getting kicked off of reality TV, and having been out of a lucrative gig for two years by last spring, news had broken the star was behind on his taxes, and had been for a while. In March of 2022, it was reported Fritz owed back taxes in the amount of $5,038 that had accrued from two properties he’d purchased in Iowa. He’d also previously mentioned things had not gone well with a former partner, a woman who he’d spent lavish amounts of money on and who left him after allegedly costing him “six figures.”
A return to Pickers seemed further and further away.
May of 2022: An Insider Spoke Out About Ongoing Problems
An insider who knew both Pickers stars said the two were still not talking. He also noted “money” had reportedly changed the friendship between the two men.
July 2022: Mike Wolfe Jumped Into The Fray Again After Health Scare
It was confirmed in July that Frank Fritz had suffered a stroke. Interestingly, it was his former TV partner Mike Wolfe who alerted the world to the stroke news after months of silence about what had transpired. Mike had asked the world to keep their “opinions” about what was going on with the show and the back-and-forth between the former friends to themselves. Instead, Wolfe leaking the news inspired a bit of vitriol from certain fans.
August 2022: Frank Fritz Was Reportedly On The Mend
While a stroke is a big deal and the reality star had gone through a big health scare, it was reported just a few weeks later that he was on the mend. While he was out of the hospital at this point, his struggles continued in the months following.
October 2022: A Guardianship Petition Was Filed
While it seemed that Fritz was getting better, what had actually transpired was the actor was shifted from a rehab center to at home care. Paperwork was filed on Frank Fritz’s behalf to get a guardianship put into place. That paperwork made the situation a whole lot clearer:
Because of his stroke, Mr. Fritz’s decision-making capacity is so impaired that he is unable to care for his own safety, or to provide for necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, or medical care. [He is] unable to make, communicate, or carry out important decisions concerning his own financial affairs.
The former star has struggled with at home care, with myriad 911 calls being placed in recent months. He has also struggled with his finances, as care after a stroke is expensive.
January 2023: Insider Claimed American Pickers Wanted To Get The Gang Back Together, But The Show Must Go On
An insider claimed History was having second thoughts about his firing. The news came after friends was put under the care of a guardianship and had reportedly been burdened by finances for some time. While returning to TV would likely be a boon for the latter part, given recent reports, it's unclear how Fritz could do the traveling and filming necessary to fulfill a TV obligation.
In the meantime, American Pickers has moved on. Mike Wolfe has gratefully thanked the crew for their hard work on the new season and the show seems to have successfully navigated the storm of drama that followed Frank Fritz being let go from the show. The latter's new battle is now a battle for his health, and that will need to take priority, at least in the near future. But time heals a lot of wounds and we'l have to wait and see what's down the road for both men, and the show.