I’m a latecomer to the whole pawn-reality genre—I’m too busy trying to keep up with all the swamp-reality shows—so I didn’t know the Keno brothers, genial hosts of Buried Treasure, served as appraisers on Antiques Roadshow until they mentioned it during the premiere of their new show tonight. Unless I missed Cookie Monster’s stint on Kitchen Nightmares, this must be the first time anyone has made the leap directly from PBS to Fox, and it shows. Leigh and Leslie Keno don’t scream at one another. They don’t insult anyone. They don’t do anything but act like the two nicest antiques appraisers imaginable. How did they get here?
But wait! Buried Treasure isn’t just a pawn show! It’s also a hoarders show! The premise is simply to take the Keno brothers out of the auction hall and send them into some scary houses. Their first stop is Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, where I believe they put plaques on all the trees into which Billy Joel has crashed his car. Here, they meet up with Liz and her daughter Lilly. Liz is long retired and lives in a house crammed with knick-knacks and gewgaws. Lilly, who lives there with her and pays most of the bills, strongly implies that Liz inherited enough money to live on comfortably but instead squandered it all on useless crap. Although Liz is very resistant to the idea, Lilly would like to sell some of the crap, so here come the Keno brothers to investigate.
With its piles of clutter, abundance of mold, and occasional yapping rodent, this house is clearly well outside the Kenos’ comfort zone, but somehow, they manage to find an ancient Mayan vase, an autographed photo of Charles Dickens, and a few other promising items. Things get tense for a moment or two, but eventually, Liz relents and allows the Kenos to take five items for further appraisal. That’s nice and all, but removing five items doesn’t exactly go a long way towards making Liz’s house any more livable, even if one of them is a tall case clock.
Next stop: Manhattan, where comic book collector Graig and his mysterious Latvian wife are hoping to upgrade their living situation beyond their tiny, cramped, one-bedroom apartment crammed with Justice League action figures. Graig has three potentially valuable items: Incredible Hulk #1, Amazing Fantasy #15 (featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man), and an original animation cel from a 1940s Fleischer Superman cartoon. As someone who once hoped to pay for my college education with my near-mint copy of Micronauts #1, I could see where this was going right away. The Hulk cover has been retouched, and there’s a piece of tape on the Spider-Man cover, so they’re not worth nearly as much as mint copies would be. And while the animation cel fetches an offer of over $50,000, it’s not quite the life-changing payoff Graig had been hoping for.
After crushing another family’s dream by determining that a supposed 17th century violin is actually an early 20th century knockoff, the Kenos return to Liz and Lilly with their appraisals. Turns out some of that crap is actually quite valuable, and Liz learned she wasn’t quite as attached to it as she thought she was. And it’s a good thing, too, because I think Lilly might have murdered her in her sleep otherwise.
Buried Treasure is probably about the best you can expect for a new show in the dog days of August. It did a few things that really bug me—the crazy editing during the comic shop sequence tried way too hard to juice up a juiceless moment and instead ended up dragging it out endlessly—but it did give me some sense of the appeal these shows hold. It’s kind of amazing that the Keno brothers can recognize pretty much any object ever made in the history of the world and put some value on it. Who wouldn’t yearn to hear them say, “Ah yes, this bowl you’ve been using to feed your ferret actually dates back to sixth century Mesopotamia”? Again, I’m no expert, but if you like this sort of thing, Buried Treasure is probably worth a look.
- I’ve mentioned this before in connection with other shows, but Buried Treasure did another thing I hate by running those “Coming up next!” bumpers before every commercial break. I’m already watching the show!
- Maybe after 50 episodes of this, I’d be able to tell Leigh from Leslie. But I doubt it.
- I kind of fell in love with Lilly, especially once she started jumping around and yelling “Shut the fuck up!” after every appraisal.
- Anyone interested in Micronauts #1? I’ll settle for five figures.