Reality TV: I confess to a certain fascination with the reality shows where individuals head out to find or cash in on treasures from the past. Do I think these shows are completely unscripted? Well, no, but for viewers, a certain suspense builds as to what treasures the hunters will find and what the treasures will be worth. I place these shows several rungs above reality shows like Duck Dynasty, the appeal of which totally escapes me. I do admit to never having watched an entire episode of this show so perhaps I shouldn't offer a valid reaction (oh, please).
Real Personalities: I also admit that a number of the personalities on the storage, salvage, pawn, and picker shows come across as being at about the same level as the fellows on Duck Dynasty. For example, Chumllee on Pawn Stars and Darrell on Storage Wars sound almost as uneducated and clueless as any of the fellows on Duck Dynasty (who before their current bearded roll-out looked more like yuppies). Yet, Darrell is supposedly the storage fellow who recognized the work of artist Guttierez in a storage bin, the biggest discovery on the show. This discovery and the show itself are under attack as being staged, and much of the show does seem to be staged. A plus on the show are Jarrod and Brandi who come across as a more realistic, typical, squabbling, but loving couple.
A Step Up: Appearing less staged is the show American Pickers, featuring Antique Archaeology, a business with stores in Iowa and Tennessee. Unique among the storage, salvage, pawn, and picker shows, this offering is hosted by two engaging individuals who come across as well mannered, knowledgeable, and having integrity. Hopefully, those qualities are not simply staged. I may be prejudiced in my appreciation for this show because I was born in Tennessee and now live in Iowa. Another show that also seems a cut above is Salvage Dawgs, based in Roanoke, Virginia, which combines architectural salvage with clever creative design.
The Hunt: So, why are all these shows wildly popular? I believe it is for the same reasons that children like to hunt for Easter eggs or for a hidden dreidel (and of course adults love to hunt for gold and precious gems); it is the lure of that which is hidden and assumed to be valuable. The hunt is fun and you may get something really nice in the end. Also, that element of competition is involved—who finds the most first and whose win is the most valuable. We all want to be the winner.
So, will I continue to watch these shows even though they are undoubtedly at least partially staged? Probably. For the most part, I find them entertaining. Will I ever watch Duck Dynasty? No, that show is beyond even my high tolerance for mindless entertainment.
Image of Jarrod Schulz and his business partner/wife Brandi Passante, Wikepedia Commons license, originally posted on Flickr: Jarrod & Brandi IMG-116 by Mingle Media TV, June 3, 2011, 13:46:26.
"Nash States Super 2-Door Sedan, ca. 1950." Image from Wikipedia Commons license. Work of Nbastian210, June 29, 2011.