What would you get if you crossed eBay with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’s nail-nibbling suspense, potential cash rewards, and embarrassing lapses in judgment? The final answer might be PBS’ Antiques Roadshow.
Judging from the ratings, watching people discover family heirlooms are actually worth their weight in gold — or worthless pieces of junk — has never been more popular. Though now in its fourth season, the BBC-inspired series is PBS’ No. 1 prime-time addiction (14 million viewers a week).
Recent episodes of Frasier and Will & Grace have revolved around Roadshow mania, and there’s a new knockoff series on VH1 (Rock Collectors focuses on music memorabilia). Expect more than 60,000 people to line up with their dusty bric-a-brac for the Summer 2000 installment, which has scheduled stops from Boston to Sacramento and cities in between.
But unlike the bargain hunters on eBay, host Chris Jussel believes Roadshow’s Deadhead-like followers aren’t just about the Benjamins. ”What captivates people is that it’s…about people’s stories,” says Jussel. ”People are far more interested in who made [the item] and how to take care of it than, in many instances, how much it’s worth.” It is, after all, educational TV.