Most reality TV and competition shows aren’t worth watching when compared to all the great TV writing available these days. Two weeks ago in our Spring TV Wrap-up, we discussed the best of this past season, and you’ll notice there are no reality shows listed there. Why? The reality TV formula got old fast as the past decade moved along, as did competition shows generally. Sure, American Idol and Top Chef still get big viewership numbers, and we drift back for an episode of Iron Chef once in a while, but at some point even their fans will dwindle. Let’s face it, there’s something for everyone and we won’t knock it (it’s why having several hundred channels to choose from seems to be a very “American” thing) and fans of reality shows probably aren’t also watching our sci-fi, fantasy, and other genre programming.
That said, one of the more fun reality-esque shows because if its unique subject matter is starting its second season this week: the Syfy Channel’s Hollywood Treasure, which airs on Tuesday nights. I was impressed that they changed up the show a bit for the season two premiere, and offered a lot of content anyone can enjoy. Three key things make the series work. First, although Hollywood Treasure has the obligatory formula for reality shows, including the repeated scenes that straddle each commercial break and make you race for the fast forward on the remote, the plain coolness of the subject matter of the show outweighs any reality show annoyance factor. Second, the show focuses on the guys who run Profiles in History, consistently the entertainment memorabilia auction house that pulls in the highest sales of any auction house in the world, and items they sold at auction in the past year. These guys run into all sorts of neat props and costumes from Hollywood and occasionally an actor or show creator. Third, the guys who run the auctions and are featured in the show, Joe Maddalena, Jon Mankuta, Brian Chanes, and Fong Sam, are actually fans of genre films and comic books as much as they are businessmen. I’d dealt with these guys in the past and they are always great to work with. Some of the scenes are formulaic and more than a bit contrived, but their passion and excitement for memorabilia always shines through.
The highlight of episode one of this new season, and what will certainly keep watchers coming back for more if they can keep bringing in similar guests, is a segment where actor Sean Astin discussed movie props he owns (and used to own) from Rudy, Goonies and The Lord of the Rings. Astin always has such an aura of authenticity that you can ignore all the theatrics and just enjoy seeing this guy simply talk about making movies. The personal items he retained from playing Samwise Gamgee are certainly treasures any LOTR fan would love to get his hands on.
Other sequences in this episode were an attempt to auction one of the four original sets of ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz for $2 million, which Profiles was only able to sell after the fact by direct sale, still attaining the $2 million the owner wanted as a minimum reserve price. In this sequence Profiles also revealed that they actively solicit buyers after sales for items that don’t meet the minimum reserve price–buyers that kick themselves later for not bidding, thinking the sell price will be out of their range. In reviewing the slippers they got to visit what seemed like a private collector’s own Fort Knox lockdown facility. Another segment featured Joe Maddalena buying a Jim Carrey hat and cane from Batman Forever, then trying to flip them at auction for profit. And Maddalena also visited the Dreier collection of costumes and props, which is being auctioned off over a few years.
Profiles in History is the same auction house we discussed here last year that made all sorts of records selling off the Debbie Reynolds movie costume and prop collection, including the famed Marilyn Monroe Seven Year Itch subway vent scene dress and an Audrey Hepburn My Fair Lady dress, among millions of dollars in other sales, and the Captain America auction last month. And these are the guys we caught up with last year at Comic-Con showing the Back to the Future III DeLorean. Their auction website is www.profilesinhistory.com. We hope they can keep up the momentum started in their first episode of season two all season long.