Who watches trash? asks David Basckin
|Members of the cast of Baggage Battles, a show on the Travel Channel about second-hand cars and an over-the-top car auction.|
Why, I wonder, are there so many television shows in which Americans bid for old rubbish and then sell it off, usually at a profit? We refer, more in puzzlement than anger, to the plethora of DStv shows – both fresh and second-hand – in which the low cost Reality genre is used to dramatise low grade treasure hunts.
Last week I watched something called Baggage Battles on the Travel Channel. Most curiously this was actually about second-hand cars, but what the hell. It seems that somewhere in Florida there’s the biggest, smelliest, most crowded second-hand car auction in the entire world including Space. Hopefuls comb the sales lot, looking for profit. Nothing too wrong with this and just in case the purpose of the show is obscure, every so often a painfully unskilled non-actor faces the camera and says – slowly – “I want to make money!” The hopefuls, strangely dressed and variously accented, cruise the line-up of wrecks mumbling about cash. One dude with red lenses in his spectacles seeks a ruined Corvette. Another wants an elderly Jeep. The third bidders find a golf cart that matches their unlikely clothing and even less likely British accents. What excitement! The Corvette hunter gets his wreck, the golf cart heroes drive off the set, while the Jeep buyer finds his car won’t start. Not to worry: there’s a lot of junk in the back seat. Slowly, very slowly, he searches through the filth finding not only a still-living cockroach but a Tag Heuer watch which he sells for five hundred bucks.
Chaos, meaninglessness and second-hand furniture floated to the surface in the second rubbish-tip documentary on my watch list. This was Storage Wars Texas on MpremHD. Once more the American capacity to store junk in rented accommodation and then forget to pay the rent is used to trigger drama as tense as over-boiled spaghetti. And once more the Reality genre kicks in, only this time the participants give the strong impression of being real actors. They have character! Personality! A lively line in chatter!
Not only that, they buy unexamined junk and tell us all how they intend turning it to profit. Why do they do this? Who apart from professional television watchers who are obliged by their code of ethics to review a representative sample of broadcast garbage, actually watches this stuff?
Meanwhile, on a tastefully carpeted lounge floor in a country far away, a cat is chasing a mouse. The cat is Tom and the mouse is Jerry, although at no time in the narrative does anyone or anything call the mouse by his Christian name. Tom on the other hand is clearly a nom de guerre since the only human in the show calls him Jasper. Jasper and Jerry? This is never going to catch on.
The human, whom we only ever see from the knees down, is a domestic employee of the house that has the lounge that has the carpet that supports the running feet of the mouse with no name and the cat who may or may not be Jasper. I confess to some cat identity confusion at this point. The mouse, despite its tiny size, has the bigger brain while the cat (Tom? That you in there?) has bigger teeth and a prehensile tail. You’ll never guess how this little drama resolves, but just in case you are in a state of trembling anxiety, let me assure you that apart from the reviewer, no animals or people were hurt, damaged or impaired by this little movie.
This column first appeared in the 27 July edition of the Sunday Tribune SMtv