At the risk of outing myself as a person of questionable TV-watching taste, I have to say that my current favourite show (when not watching a Till Debt Do Us Part rerun or waiting for the new season of True Blood to start) is A&E’s Storage Wars. For anyone not familiar with this particular brand of reality TV, here is a quick breakdown of the show’s premise: it follows a bunch of folks who (apparently) make their living bidding on and re-selling the contents of storage lockers abandoned by their owners. Every episode focuses on 3 or 4 auctions, and the ensuing “contest” to see who scored the best deal. The kicker is that the bidders can’t investigate the contents of each locker before the auction starts; all they get is five minutes, after the locker is opened, to scope out the general “lay of the land” – no touching, or peeking into boxes, etc. Often, especially when the storage locker is chock-a-block full of random containers, the people will choose whether to bid or not based on their gut, or other random criteria. In one episode, a guy bid on a storage locker no one else wanted simple because it was full of small, uninteresting-looking boxes that would fit into the truck he had with him that day; he found over $1,500 in cash taped to the back of a (worthless) painting found in the stash.
The show is a combination of spectator dumpster-diving and Antique Roadshow; on another recent show, one bidder went with his gut on an unprepossessing locker and ended up with a $12,000 miniature grand piano (an old manufacturer’s sample from back in the day). I can’t say that I’ve ever been all that interested in antiques or (with some exceptions) vintage items, although as an enthusiastic bargain-hunter I love stories about Van Goghs found at garage sales. And it’s precisely that bargain-hunting instinct that’s tickled by a show like Storage Wars. I love the idea that, for a relatively small investment, a smart and/or lucky bidder can end up with a veritable treasure. I also like the fact that it takes a good eye, and some general knowledge, to recognize a treasure in the midst of useless junk. And I really like watching what I call the “joy of the pay-off” – realizing that you got something pricey (or even priceless) for pennies on the pound.
But, best of all, I love imagining a version of show that would involve abandoned closets rather than storage lockers. The possibilities could be endless … and glorious. Who knows when you might stumble on a vintage YSL bag, or some cool Bakelite jewelry from the ‘50s, or even a piece or two from last year’s runways? And you might learn a thing or two about fashion (and history) in the bargain.
Hmmm … The Closet Hunters – has a certain ring to it. What do you think? And, since we’re on the topic, what programming suggestions would you share if you were ever stuck in an elevator with a TV exec?