It's an addictive television opiate with weird presenters, strange shops and vintage sports cars, it's haggling, competition and travel, it's Antique Roadtrip and we're hooked.
My name’s James and I’m an Antiques Road Trip addict. Not Antiques Roadshow, Antiques Roadtrip. The truth is I’d never even heard of the programme until at Sabotage Times we kept noticing a lady called Catherine Southon’s name in the google analytics list that told us what google searches people were finding us from.
Antiques Roadtrip is a television format pile-up. While its subject is very slow lane the actual dynamics of the show are manifold. It combined a road trip, competition, nostalgia, haggling, shopping, travel and is both educational and informative. It’s also quite unusual in that it combines the hunt for auction-able antiques with a really salacious and camp voice over.
One of the first things that struck me about Catherine and her co-presenters was how un-Ken and Barbie they are. Most television presenters are bland manicured dolls but the presenters on Antiques Roadtrip are chosen for their expertise and they bring with that a lot of strange personality and charm. Bowties, bigs scarves, brightly coloured coats and camp conversation are in abundance.
Here’s what happens. Two antiques experts are given a vintage sports car, a route and £200 to spend in various antiques shops along the way. The aim is to buy things that will make the most money at an auction at the end of the journey. The trip normally takes in a number of small villages and last over two episodes. One of the experts will usually take a short detour to guide us through a bizarre Victorian collection of curiosities in a nearby stately home.
As the browsing proceeds the experts explain the history and stories behind the objects they are considering. Once they’ve found what they fancy they have a crack at haggling with the owner. It’s hard to believe the shop owners would give so much ground to a regular customer. I’d say they’ve either been thawed by the heat of the television lights, dazzled by the charm or just re-assured by the producer that whatever the weirdo in the scarlet greatcoat or the bow tie suggests they should go with and the TV company will top the price up later.
The experts then do a bit of show and tell, exclaim in delight at what each other have bought and then say what they really think alone to camera. By this point there’s usually a bit of needle or fear and the competition is kicking in.
The finale is of course the auction as the public bid to win the massive oar, blue glass vase or Victorian pipe cleaning penknife the experts have so lovingly. Whoever makes the most money is that weeks winner and goes onto a leaderboard against other pairs of like minded experts. I didn’t mention there were others? This is a veritable Champions League of a Road Trip. Something like 8 pairs of experts are out on the road at the same time and like Come Dine With Me there’s never a shortage of shows being broadcast.
Once I’d really got hooked the Sky Plus could serve upto three hours a night, Marx was right, it really did start to feel like an opiate. One week I went on holiday and came back to 26 shows. The real lure of the programme is the combination of tone and devices. The re-caps are tedious and a worry if that’s the pace television for older people is presented at but I find the whole thing very relaxing. And our reader was right, once you’ve OD’d on camp dealers from Brighton the flighty Catherine Southon does start to brighten up the screen.
Not content with mere brown bread broadcasting the Antiques Roadtrip has also ventured into celebrity land. And just as the footballers Celebrity Come Dine With Me was a landmark in television so the Celebrity Antiques Roadtrip with two of the world’s greatest goalkeepers Peter Shilton and Peter Schmeichel was unsurpassable. Neither Peter seemed hugely interested in antiques but you’ve got to take your hat off to their agent who must have a great sense of humour.
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