May be if Antiques Roadshow actually auctioned stuff off like Syfy’s new reality series, Hollywood Treasure [Wednesdays, 10/9C], I’d watch it. That’s part of the unexpected charm of HT – not only do we get to see the folks at Joe Maddalena’s Profiles in History track down such cool collectible items as a Jupiter II Space Pod [from Lost in Space], or the carpetbag from Mary Poppins, we get to see them sold via auction. That’s quite a hook.
Joe Maddalena, who owns and operates Profiles in History, has a staff of knowledgeable colleagues – Brian Chanes, Jon Mankuta and Tracey McCall – who may not know everything there is to know about Hollywood memorabilia but know the people who know the stuff they don’t. The result is that when any of Profiles in History staff aren’t sure about something, they bring experts who do – something that makes the show relatable to a larger audience [though who doesn’t love learning about movie stuff?].
The format of the show is this: with an auction coming up, Maddalena and his team track down and attempt to acquire and authenticate cool stuff to auction – then they sell it at auction and we get to watch. They’re not always successful [Disney won’t let them sell any of the Iron Man suits, for example], but they do acquire some primo collectibles [like the abovementioned Space Pod and carpetbag].
Part of the fun is watching the team go CSI on an item to verify its authenticity – as in the case of the Mary Poppins carpetbag in the first ep, Let the Bidding Begin; or the Bela Lugosi costume from White Zombie in I’ll Get You, My Pretty [ep #2]. It’s also interesting to watch Joe as he visits the owners of some of the collectibles – like Sue Palmer, owner of the Wicked Witch of the West’s hat from The Wizard of OZ; or Dawn Welles [Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island], who owns a number of items from the show – including several costumes.
Along the way, we learn the history of the various items of memorabilia; meet some of the owners, and watch the items go to auction. The auctions from the first two eps [the first season’s twelve eps will air in two-ep blocks] are almost mesmerizing – not because of pace [these are not the kinds of auctions where the auctioneers rattle off a dizzying patter while hustling for higher bids], but because of the intensity of the people bidding. Watching someone lose out on Bela Lugosi’s suit because “I’d spend the rest of the life on the front porch if my wife knew I’d spent $100,000 on a suit” – despite knowing how keenly he wanted it, it just a bit heartbreaking.
On the other hand, seeing an item [like the Starship Troopers hero starship miniature, or the Witch’s hat] go for well above Joe’s initial assessment is quite a rush.
On the other hand, the show manufactures tension that feels a bit off. Each ep starts at ten days before an auction and securing some items takes right up until the day before. Given the need to put together catalogues for prospective buyers [and the one actually seen – briefly – on the show is pretty thick] and send out information prior to the auction, that doesn’t feel quite real – especially when some of the key items are as rare, and difficult to acquire, as they are.
That may be a bit of a stumbling block, but the genuine enthusiasm Joe and his team exhibit – and that of the people whose memorabilia they are consigned – as well as that of the collectors who attend the auctions, is impressive enough that, when coupled with the extreme coolness of the items we see sold, make up for it.
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Photo by Nicole Wilder/Courtesy of Syfy.