Bargain Hunt

This is my “other” favorite game show on British TV.  Two teams (consisting of two people each) are given £300 to spend at an antiques fair (read “flea-market”).  Each team has an expert to help choose their three items.  Each team has the ability to swap one of their bought items for something chosen by the expert.  Finally, all the items are then sold at auction, and the team with the highest profit wins.  Simple enough.

But it’s Tim Wonnacott (pictured above), the irrepressibly crusty (and undeniably flaming) host of this show that keeps me watching.  He is the Emiril Lagasse of antiquing.  This man can find amusement in just about anything.  Especially Victorian match-strikers and paperweights.  But more than that, he’s a caricature of what you’d think a British antiques expert would be like.  He’s like Truman Capote.  So over-the-top, you’re sure it must be an act, until you realize it isn’t, which just makes it all the more fascinating.

I have to say, that’s one of the great liberating things I’ve noticed about Britain… with so many people from so many places and so many regional subcultures within Britain itself, there really is no one “accepted behavior” we all have to follow.  In some ways, the more eccentric you are, the better.  And Tim Wonnacott is the poster boy for the National British Eccentrics Union.  He wears flashy bow-ties that would make Tucker Carlson envious.  He fusses and preens over junk antiques like they’re all on loan from Buckingham Palace.  And best of all, he grits his horribly British teeth in disgust when he sees the players choosing a sure-loser.

Since this is the kind of game show you can’t really “win” (ie: there’s no big cash prize; you’re competing just to compete), the players have a lot of fun, mucking about with the experts, and consequently making some of the worst choices you could possibly make at an antiques fair.  If it’s hideously ugly and falling apart, it’s bound to catch someone’s eye on this show.  And they’ll proclaim it “lovely!”  Cut to Tim, grimacing.  Usually, it’s not a matter of making a profit, but of somehow (usually luck) managing to lose less that your opponent.

Every so often, one of the pieces actually sells at auction for a lot of money, and you have to wonder what idiots are buying this crap.  And then you remember you just saw two idiots buying it 20 minutes earlier in the show (albeit for less money).

More info: Bargain Hunt


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