Clearly, many shows are carried by the personality of the presenter though they frequently reflect a triumph of style over substance. This, arguably, excludes Dickinson, who dominates the screen, demonstrating boundless enthusiasm and an opinion on almost everything. He is somewhat redolent of the eponymous Lovejoy, that roguish, careworn but charming dealer, so successfully played by Ian McShane in the BBC series, but his piece de resistance surely has to be his hair. Whatever authority he may exude examining a Victorian tortoise shell box or a chipped Minton plate, one cannot but be drawn to his vertiginous mullet, a shock of hair so dense it could comfortably accommodate a nest of birds. I think he could probably make a passable living as an Elvis impersonator such is his showmanship but this is in marked contrast to another member of the bouffant brigade, the erstwhile host of The Antiques Roadshow, Hugh Scully, who looked as though he’d taken a dose of mogadon every time he stepped in front of the camera.
Then again, The Antiques Roadshow experts generally come over as a pretty uninspiring crowd. Some of them are well qualified on their specialist subjects and, indeed, are often a fount of knowledge but I’ve seen more verve from a blind man crossing a busy dual carriageway. They come from near and far, many representing leading auctioneers, but their delivery and mode of questioning are so entirely predictable, this show must possess the most threadbare autocue in television history. Can it be a complete coincidence that The Antiques Roadshow is scheduled alongside another BBC stalwart, Songs of Praise, a programme that appears to be populated by precisely the same audience, albeit the host is in a frock? Perhaps they’re all seeking salvation for ghastly misjudgements or overinflated expectations.
Anyhow, some experts are notably well informed so should, for example, James Braxton of Edgar Horn or Roy Butler of Wallis and Wallis pop up on your screen talking about Tunbridgeware and guns respectively, please pay attention. These guys know what they are talking about. The problem is that the producers seem hell bent on incorporating all manner of rubbish in their desire to be egalitarian and inclusive and fail miserably in the process. It would be far better television, frankly, if the nominated expert took one look at a given object, profusely thanked the owner for shlepping it over land and sea, and then recommended it for firewood. Why has The Antiques Roadshow not created a Christmas special of all those unmitigated disasters brought in by the deeply earnest, deeply greedy and deeply ignorant? Don’t you secretly long for a sarcastic appraiser to enquire “You really dragged this piece of crap in here thinking it was worth something? What do you use for brains? Stop wasting my time!” Is anybody home at Broadcasting House? And is anybody listening?
Part two in the series of articles by Howard Lewis. (Read part one. . . The Price is Right: Appraisal, Valuation and Inspired Guesswork or the Rise of TV Antique Shows and the Collecting Bug in the invaluable blog at www.invaluable.com).
Howard Lewis, Chairman, Invaluable group of companies.
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