Welcome to the latest edition of TV Recap! with me, the author! I am excited to be blogging regularly about televisual motion arts again. As you know, I have been thoroughly distracted by all the politics spilling into our living rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the disaster of the Presidential debates or the fiasco of one of George Will’s last irrelevant columns. But I have re-committed myself to acting out, using words, my interpretation of our nation’s premiere cultural events. I figure that if I can install a 36” OLED smart TV on the glass surface of my walk-in shower door, and reinforce the door by adding another door so that the original door won’t fall off when I open it to watch TV while sitting on what I affectionately call “the john” “whom I once dated and now visualize as a toilet I crap in,” then I can do anything!
Since I’m new at recording my thoughts about non-political programming, I’ve decided to start with a show that’s both within my very large comfort zone and that’s at the heart of our nation’s love of public television and old people: Antiques Roadshow. Or is it “The Antiques Roadshow?” Honestly, the title screen kind of went by in a flash. That’s another show that America, like me, has grown to love: The Flash. Or is it just “Flash?” At least that show has a reason for keeping things moving. Slow down, Antiques Roadshow—America can’t keep up!
Anyway, onto the Recap! I watched Antiques Roadshow’s 2012 broadcast of their visit to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I don’t think there’s anything more recent. Although it was recorded in Tulsa, a lot of the people on the show sounded really southern. I looked at a map and was surprised to learn that Oklahoma is near Texas. I thought it was closer to Montana or Minneapolis or another M state—most of those are up north. Maybe I was thinking Maine. To be honest, my geographic knowledge is mostly based on a dim understanding of seasonal light patterns. South is where the sun meanders around in winter.
This episode, following PBS’s interesting history of radically upending the conventions of television, began with its stirring climax: a review of an Oscar Meyer die-cut advertising sign from the 1930s. Not only was this piece of corporate art a stunning display of deli meats and processed sausages—predating the world-famous Wienermobile by several years—but the appraiser/owner dialogue in this scene exhibited the best television writing that AR is capable of producing. Led by appraiser and evidently itinerant country doctor Nicholas D. Lowry in a no-doubt bespoke cream-colored, fine-checkered three-piece suit, the conversation revealed the kind of power dynamic between two people of very different backgrounds that makes AR such a compelling demonstration of hopeless yearning for instantaneous wealth.
Dr. Lowry tried to get the Oscar Meyer wiener sign owner to list what makes Oscar Meyer so famous, but the owner was clearly intimidated and shocked by Dr. Lowry’s decision to joke about being “full of baloney.” This is serious, Dr. Lowry—this Art Deco pig-meat sign is this poor Texan Oklahoman’s retirement savings, right here. However, by the end of the scene, we were heartened to hear that the “tasty and succulent” butcher image was worth anywhere between $2,000 and $3,000, paying for about one extra month of life for in this poor fellow’s eventual Tulsa or possibly Lubbock nursing home.
From there, it was all downhill. I found myself increasingly confused by why Mark L. Walberg looked so different than he does in the movies. I also was perplexed by the editing work on this episode. Why was a $2,000 shipping lane map from 1775 discussed for what felt like twenty or thirty million minutes when a potentially $35,000 Tiffany lamp—all of its barnacles intact—was treated like an afterthought? Sure, the 1910 bejeweled light-caster (that’s what they called them back then, I learned) was ugly as sin, but so was everything and person on this show, excepting the usually very attractive but apparently inebriated Mark L. Walberg. My only conclusion is that appraiser Arlie Sulka really did not get along with the light-dispenser owner, and that there was some sort of back-stage brawl that resulted in a settlement that the PBS media is refusing to divulge. I’m looking forward to Ms. Sulka’s “fictionalized” tell-all involving succor provided by Mark L. Walberg, after he cleans himself back up.
However, I was pleased to see that the Roadshow still had a few genteel punches to throw. Perhaps my favorite part of the episode was when another poor inhabitant of one of Tulsa’s nearby panhandles was brutally informed that her exquisite Queen Anne English cabinet was nothing but a shameful, humiliating fake. How that woman didn’t immediately flee to Minneapolis or Milwaukee in tears is beyond me, but I suppose there was some value in inheriting a burled walnut-and-oak cabinet worth between $2,000 and $4,000 at auction, since that would buy a lot of IKEA furniture. I also appreciated that the show allowed a son to publicly rebuke his own mother during the humorous outtakes at the end of the show (the “Feedback Booth”—ugh, AR, do you have to mimic the worst parts of our reality TV industry so badly? There was no “booth.” People just stood in front of a curtain!). She said his fork was worthless, but it’s from the Civil War, so shove it up your antique pepper-shaker, mommy dearest.
There was so much more to this show—probably another 13 mini-dramas about the age-old tension between snooty superiority (“stonewear collectors are a really interesting bunch of people,” noted appraiser Wes Cowan) and clueless rubes (“I have no $5,000 idea what it’s worth,” said every owner), punctuated by a delightful visit to Tulsa’s or Abilene’s own Philbrook Museum of Art with delectably down-on-his-luck Mark L. Walberg.
Unfortunately, I began to slip into a fitful sleep on my recliner fridge somewhere between an 1890 silk Persian Tabriz rug and a 1927 Lalique vase. The last thing I recall is a 16th or 17th century Chinese bronze guardian figure riding a tortoise into battle against the Mongols and offering each enemy warrior somewhere between $70,000 and $100,000, depending on condition. Spurning their offer and making the Chinese immediately regret building a Great Wall way down South, the Mongols were about to overrun Peking with their adorably small but deadly horses when I rode in on a much larger American stallion, brandishing my $3,000-$5,000 English gadget cane and offering to re-route them further north, to Mississippi.
Upon awakening and stretching to get a new soda, I realized something very important: TV is so interesting!
I just wished I got it sometimes.