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Monday, July 17, 2006

Bargain Hunt

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Everybody has a favorite show, and mine is a confection from England called "Bargain Hunt."

In case you've never seen it, I'll explain the rules. They're dead simple. The host (here in the US still David Dickenson, aka "The Duke," pictured above) gives £200 to two two-person teams. The teams are given one hour at a fair (what we might better term a flea market) in which to buy up to three items. These items are then sold at auction, and the teams can keep any profits, if any. Each team is provided an expert, usually either an auctioneer or an antiques dealer, for consultation.

The first part of the program (or programme if you want to get all British on me) shows the contestants going around and picking various items to buy. Typically, the contestants will find something they like, and then the expert examines it, describes it, and points out both flaws and wonders. The price is then revealed, and, usually, it turns out to be a bit high. The contestants (or sometimes the experts) are sent for a good haggle to try to gain a price that will guarantee a profit at auction.

The second segment is my favorite. In this, David Dickenson confabs with an auctioneer at the establishment that is selling the items, and they dissect the values and opine as to the chances for the various pieces to show a profit in that particular auction house the next day. David usually ends up pronouncing a particular item either "cheap as chips" or "all its money." "Cheap as chips" is a good thing.

The final segment is the actual auction. Each team is brought out in turn and the items sold. Most teams take a loss (but it's the BBC's money--what the hell!), but some teams make mild profits and they typically announce that they plan to donate them to the local pub. Occasionally teams make pretty good profits--over £200 in one case--but they are the rare exceptions.

David Dickenson is an extraordinary character, always tanned and wearing Italian suits. He has his own personal battery of cliches that he trots out ceaselessly--cheap as chips; a bunch of old tat; seems a bit strong for my money; the rules are dead simple; this is a bit of a licorice; this is what we call a Liz Taylor, many marriages, not all of them good--and part of the great joy of the show comes from listening to him talk.

I like this show, which comes on BBC America twice each day, and recommend it highly. It has a silly, carefree air about it and gives me a small shot of a wide variety of British dialects. With a time commitment of only 30 minutes, I find this show to be cheap as chips and think the viewer stands a good chance with it on the day.

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