Sunday, August 27, 2023

Why Antiques Roadshow is Evil!

Hoarding disorder is a real problem.  Television shows which claim all your junk is priceless are not helping!

We were walking into P-town the other day and passed this building that was five garages in a row.  I had presumed that the people who live in this crowded tourist town were parking their cars there, but on this day, two of the garage doors were open and they were filled with junk.  A young man was trying to pull things out and sell them to passers-by, but was not very organized and was asking ridiculous prices for things.

From what I could divine, the two garages were rented by a relative or partner who had passed away, and this young man had to settle the estate and vacate the garages by the end of the month.  The next day, we stopped by and there was a huge dumpster out front, with all the contents of the garages neatly stacked inside.  Apparently he had rented other garages as well, as that dumpster was empty the next day and then filled the next.

And it was all junk.  No precious antiques or collectibles, but just worn-out crap that had little or no value.  Old doors, for example - and not antique ones, either.  An "old" record player that turned out to be one of these "Crosley" knock-offs they sell at WalMart for $50.  Old downhill skis, which were worth a lot of money back in 1972, but were worn out and woefully outdated by now.   I saw someone make an Adirondack chair from old skis once, so I guess there's that.   Broken chairs, cracked mirrors, nothing much of value.  We did snag a picnic basket, so I guess it wasn't all garbage. There was a heavy duty "old lady shopping cart" - the kind you see old ladies taking home their groceries in - but we had no room for it in the camper, or need for it at home, so we left it behind.

I suppose the young man could have sold more of this stuff if he advertised on Craigslist or Facebook and organized it a little better (and spent some time doing it).  But frankly, I suspect at most, he might have realized only a few hundred dollars for several days' work.  In a town where a beer costs $12, it ain't worth it.   So, off to the dumpster it all went, and the years and years of rent paid was all down the toilet.  The same is true for most storage lockers - more money is paid in rent over the years than the contents are ever worth.  And I know this because the guy who runs the local storage locker company told me so.  "Hoarding disorder is good for business!" he said, and business is good as hoarding is on the rise.

So what does this have to do with Antiques Roadshow?  Well, Antiques Roadshow is just the high-tone button-down liberal version of storage wars.  It is just people ooh-ing and aah-ing over the crap they pulled from Grandma's attic, and the "values at auction" numbers the "experts" pull out of their ass.

And yes, sometimes the junk they bring in is actually valuable and more importantly, attractive.  Sadly, a lot of lesser antiques (and even valuable ones) are ugly as sin.   Even the colonial-era hand-made furniture in places such as the Dupont estate Winterthur, is, well, kind of ugly to modern tastes.  Decorators derisively refer to it as "brown furniture" and unless it is a real antique, it is worth nothing in today's market - less than nothing really, as you have to pay to have it hauled away.

The problem with Antiques Roadshow is the same as Storage Wars - it sends this normative cue or poverty story that the trash in your attic comprises precious collectibles and you can't just throw it away. Sadly, many middle-class people succumb to this myth, which is reinforced by shows like Antiques Roadshow and Storage Wars.

The worst part of Roadshow is the salivating greed of the clueless dweebs who appear on the show.  The bring Grandma's ugly old lamp and then wait with bated breath for the official pronouncement that it is worth thousands - maybe millions!  Tellingly, none of the "appraisers" ever offer to buy the item in question.  And no doubt, not many auction houses are interested, either.

Sure, there are rare - very rare - instances where someone finds an original copy of the Declaration of Independence stuffed behind an old photo in a picture frame.  But since Normal Lear already has one, I doubt there are others lined up to pay for yours - which is a cheap copy handed out as promotion with Readers Digest in 1958.

Keeping a lot of old junk around, or worse yet, paying to store it, on the premise that it might be valuable is shortsighted and leads to hoarding disorder in short order.  And hoarding disorder is a mental illness that, if not caused by depression, will surely lead you to it.

I guess I would not be so against Antiques Roadshow if it was really about antiques and not just the "price reveal" that they tease everyone with.  It is sort of beneath Public Television to even air the program.  About as low-brow as professional wrestling, and about as fake.  Nothing wrong with that, on your basic cable channels, I guess, but on PBS?  I thought that was supposed to be intellectual!

But once again, Public Broadcasting lets me down and is, of course, no longer public.  The local stations raise money from telethons, which in turn basically raise enough money to support the fundraising costs.  The real money is from advertisements sponsorships from major corporations who want you to be depressed good little consumers.  I am surprised the storage industry doesn't sponsor it, but it is a localized business.

But then again, I should not be so shocked.  PBS has become just another broadcasting network, and they pander - like every other network - to the lowest common denominator.  It was bad enough that "This Old House" turned living space into some sort of investment or fetish to be polished and fussed over.  And of course, they have that radio "car" show for people who hate cars - but want to listen to jokes and riddles.

Sure, once in a while there is some good content.  But on the whole, it seems like PBS is sending us the same messages of consumerism and materialism that the the Fox network does.  We've come a long way from local public broadcasting!