Sunday, July 3, 2011

The popularity of junk shows

Contrary to popular belief, one man's trash is, in fact, another man's trash. There is no treasure to be found at estate sales, flea markets, swap meets or any other gathering that involves the sale of musty smelly trinkets that old people collect. Somehow, there is a whole niche audience that loves watching people find diamonds in piles of trash. This is the only explanation for the recent rash of shows revolving around junk. Pawn Stars is one of the most popular shows on cable, and now it has lots of competition.

Who says television stars have to be glamorous?

Really, the whole concept can be traced back to Antiques Roadshow. Roadshow has been popular since it first started airing in the United States. People would flock to find if their antique ottoman was a secret to vast riches. The thing of it is, while popular, Antiques Roadshow aired on PBS and nothing cool ever emerged out of public broadcasting (sorry Fred Rodgers). When Pawn Stars premiered in 2009, it took the Roadshow format and put a nice white-trash spin on it.

There's gold in them thar homes.

But even with unlikable stars and Rick's wheezy laugh, Pawn Stars blew up. History Channel, being the whore that it has become, replicated the success with American Pickers. Now, many have condemned the Pickers for swindling lonely folks out of their possessions, and their points may but valid, but those people are whiners. This is capitalism here. Yes the men may be pushy and shady about their deals (especially the fat one), but these guys are living off trash. You can't have scruples when you make a living off of junk. And they might dress up their show, saying it's about finding artifacts, but that's just pretension. Finding a tin gas station sign does not make it historical. The show is really about two things: man-love between two grown men and capitalism. If you don't like that, you're a commie.

"Buy for a nickle, sell for a dime." -Prop Joe (The Wire)

With two big hits centered around junk, all the other channels began copying off of History Channel. Discovery Channel has Oddities and Auction Kings, truTV has Hardcore Pawn, Spike has Auction Hunters, A&E has Storage Wars, Syfy has Hollywood Treasure (a movie-memorabilia spin on American Pickers) and National Geographic has Flea Man. And each show is as derivative and uninspired as it sounds.

I was very disappointed to find out Flea Man was about flea markets.

Now everyone thinks their junk is worth a fortune. Masses are visiting yard sales, hoping to find the Ark of the Covenant next to the old PEZ dispensers and VHS tapes. And this market of junk is probably ruining the speculator's market. All of these shows base their earnings on auction prices, but with a surge in tin signs found in old garages, the earnings are just going to drop. In the meantime, people are just hoarding their collectors pieces waiting for the dust gathering objects to turn a profit before it gets too much rat poop on it to be unsellable.

Thrift stores, now for prospectors along with lower-middle class people and hipsters.

These shows are only validating the people who look to sell their grandparents belongings for a quick buck. Heirlooms are no longer prized family possessions but are instead a quick way to make a few hundred bucks. There is now another outlet for people's greed, only this time it's junk being abused. And though some people make it big with a limited edition toy car, most of the artifacts are really just junk. The only value is an intrinsic and personal value. Junk should be about emotional attachment, not Laurel and Hardy giving you a price on an old bicycle.

I hate the fat one.

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