… in which I watch a lot of #SalvageHunters and @DrewPritchard makes me think thoughts about the nature of value
Last week I found myself watching too many episodes of Salvage Hunters back-to-back. (I would have been watching CSI, but husband was away and it was late and the opening sequence of CSI was too stressful to watch alone. (Granted, it was a dream sequence, but still, she was tied up and a serial killer was wielding a fish hook with intent.))
Salvage Hunters is a genius piece of television. Basically we watch a man go to work.
Drew gets in a van with his friend called T. They drive really far (we get to see a line worming its way through Wales and England) to salvage yards, old schools, country houses and miscellaneous junk depots of one sort or another.
Drew roots about and buys astonishingly few items, all of which I would pay you to take away if I owned them. (I have no taste.)
They then take the lamp, bookcase, chair or whatever back to Drew’s “wife, Rebecca” (never just “Rebecca”) and he shows her what he has bought. She looks at the rusty lamp, the burst chair or the naïvely hewn toy and gives her approval. Then the restoration people have a go at the objects. Then they get photographed and displayed online and in the shop.
I think it is the narrative structure that makes such a cheap-TV formula such compelling viewing.
We have our protagonist, Drew. His goal is to find cool items, restore them and make a profit.
The antagonistic rising-action moments are so gentle and circumstantial that the conflicts generated are utterly palatable. Sometimes there is a battle to dig out the object from under a hundred years’ worth of junk. Sometimes there is a stand-off while Drew waits for the owner’s hoarding instinct to thaw out. Sometimes there is the cost of the journey needing to be offset by the potential profit of the items. Sometimes (when he has bought a car or something vinyl) there is a little concern about what his “wife, Rebecca” might think.
The moments of purchase are the turning points, structurally. The show is edited so that these, “Have we got a deal?” moments straddle the ad break. Gentle suspense. And usually, they do.
The unloading of the van is the climax of the episode when we see what the crew of restorers and “wife, Rebecca” think of the haul. The resolution is the buffing up, the photographing and the hope of a good home for the items and a tidy profit for Drew.
The settings too are compelling. A feeling of being lucky and privileged to have access to the places where the junk is, unique buildings, beautiful private country houses, a basement of a theatre – the obscure, the ancient and the distant. They even had a wee trip to Norway.
But the best thing about the show is the theme of restoration and even redemption. Salvation, even. Salvage. Rescue.
One episode had him looking through a big old garage/shed used for storage. He came across a big box. It looked like a big box. He buys it, takes it to Wales and it looks like nothing. A wipe down and a coat of wax and it suddenly is something someone would want to buy. It would look great as a blanket box in a bedroom, or as a coffee table. All it needed was to be found and restored.
My wallow in mindless, inoffensive TV becomes a metaphor about value: the lost, the unappreciated, the broken, the disregarded, the forgotten.
When things are looked for by someone who knows their value, by someone who can see past the holes, the burst springs, peeling paint – or indeed one who sees value in the worn paint, the patina, the wear and tear – the evidence of history rubbing against the things that have been lost – these items are brought back into use, sought after, valued and appreciated.
It makes me think about the satisfaction, or even joy, when things are made to be they way they were meant to be. When things have been fixed and put right.
Nothing like a bit of restoration and redemption as late-evening viewing. Very calming.
*serial killer suddenly notices a hallmark and maker’s mark on the fishing hook and thinks that antique fishing paraphernalia has recently soared in value. He thinks better of savaging the young woman and decides to salvage the hook*