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Antiques Roadshow endures as a PBS hit because it values knowledge over money

  • The premise for the PBS staple sounds like "nobody’s idea of a winning structure for hit television," says Stephen Lurie. "But the American edition has been airing for nearly 25 years—and it remains the most watched of any ongoing PBS series. And more than 40 years after the original U.K. program debuted, it still regularly breaks the top 10 most-viewed shows of the week in the UK....Fans of the show might not be surprised by its lasting appeal. That’s in part because the show combines the simple ingredients of comfort-food television: approachability, warmth, and abundance. Beyond that, though, its popularity might stem from the paradox at its core: This show about putting a price tag on coveted possessions is not actually about money. It’s not about getting rich, playing the market, amassing wealth, or even acquiring nice things. In a show whose segments are punctuated by dollar amounts, there’s actually a quiet, persistent suggestion to direct our aspirations somewhere else: history, family, sentiment, even love. Roadshow’s unlikely ethos begins with the nature of the production, which is intentionally egalitarian. In contrast to the rarefied airs of a formal auction house, anyone has a chance to have their object appraised. Because the show moves from city to city, the crowds end up representing the geography of a country."

    TOPICS: Antiques Roadshow, PBS