Take “Antiques Roadshow,” add in “The Price Is Right” and you have “Market Warriors.”
Surprisingly enough, the highest-rated of all PBS’ series, surpassing even Big Bird and his “Sesame Street” crew, is “Antiques Roadshow.” The program is in its 16th season and boasts upwards of 10 million viewers each week.
Credit the Keno brothers Leigh and Leslie, along with those wacky costume-jewelry appraisers, as some of the “Antiques Roadshow” experts who have contributed to the success of this enduring hit. And don’t forget Salt Lake’s own rare books dealer Ken Sanders.
Capitalizing on this popularity, the producers of the grey-haired granddaddy of appraisal shows will launch a new show — what took them so long? — called “Market Warriors.” The show begins July 16 in the 8 p.m. Monday timeslot following “Antiques Roadshow” on KUED.
To create “Market Warriors,” the PBS Boston outlet WGBH has modified the “Antiques Roadshow” format. As regular watchers will tell you, the show features viewers bringing in their pieces — family heirlooms, yard-sale bargains and dumpster-dive finds — for appraisals by rotating appraisers. In “Market Warriors,” four PBS-anointed experts have been selected to search for valuable items being sold at flea markets and antiques marketplaces across the country.
The show’s “pickers,” as the middlemen between dealers and auction houses are called, are given snappy titles: Kevin Bruneau is “The Prowler,” John Bruno is “The Professor,” Miller Gaffney is “The Assessor” and Bob Richter is “The Designer.” Their day jobs range from appraiser to business owner to interior designer.
While the concept at first viewing might appear similar to reality shows like “Storage Wars” and “Pawn Stars,” there’s a more defined game-show element.
The novelty twist that “Market Warriors” brings to the genre is that the four pickers are in rivalry with each other. Each is given $1,000 to spend at a dealer venue to select items in a determined target category, with midcentury modern pieces chosen for the premiere episode. Then the items are sold at established auction houses to see which picker scores the highest profit.
The pickers can earn additional funds for their purchases by competing in, for lack of a better descriptor, a “name-the-price” round. This segment will certainly remind viewers of the opening portion of “The Price Is Right,” when an audience contestant earns the chance to appear on stage. A single collectible is chosen, and the picker naming the dealer’s sale price, without going over, earns a cash prize.
In the final portion, the four pickers are free to scour the venue and haggle with dealers for items they believe will offer the highest resale price at auction. The jovial atmosphere between dealers and buyers will ring true to enthusiasts who have searched out items at antique and collectibles marketplace venues.
What’s most surprising is that “Market Warriors” is a fairly entertaining show.
The only recurring element is the one this viewer found most annoying. Replacing Mark L. Walberg, the sturdy “Antiques Roadshow” on-air commentator, is the unseen actor-improv comedian Fred Willard. Primarily known for his roles in Christopher Guest’s mockumentary films, Willard is cherished for the character he plays in TV’s “Modern Family.”
In “Market Warriors,” Willard is nicknamed “The Host.”
As PBS president Paula Kerger has conceded, PBS is “sometimes criticized for not having a sense of humor.” But Willard’s wry commentary on the proceedings is intrusive and, because he’s only heard in voice-overs, at times confusing.
Adding to the mild frustration is the recognition that the dealers are professionals — and as knowledgeable in the trade as the four picker-contestants.
Yet, buffs of antique and collectibles who have made “Antiques Roadshow” a success will get a kick out of this spin-off. Like its predecessor, “Market Warriors” has an educational element that proves to be just as enjoyable.
And who knows? That dusty treasure you located in your grandparents’ attic might just be discussed in “Market Warriors.”