As we’re all stuck at home, we’re all watching more TV, and there is huge demand for TV that helps us unwind. My suggestion is a show that I’ve always loved and which, with its breezy demeanour, is the perfect de-stressing programme – the BBC’s Antiques Road Trip. Here’s a look inside why you should be watching this gently fun show, and why I think it’s one of the greatest shows currently airing.
The premise of the show is a week-long (five-episode) competition, in which two antiques experts compete against each other to make the most money. They start out on Monday with £200 each, driving around some part of the UK in a classic car. After haggling with dealers and looking for bargains in antique shops, they attempt to assemble five lots to take to auction. Sometimes these items sell incredibly well, and sometimes they incur hideous losses. The person with the most profit wins the day, and the overall winner is the person with the greatest profit over five legs.
Even as the experts compete, they’re so clearly having a good time, eager to find interesting antiques and share their knowledge
Antiques Road Trip is a show of many parts, and they all add up to a really wholesome and enjoyable experience. Most obviously, it’s a competition, but it’s never brash or overly competitive, and I really like that. Even as the experts compete, they’re so clearly having a good time, eager to find interesting antiques and share their knowledge. This is most obvious at the auctions – although in competition, they still root for each other, hoping that their friend’s antiques make the money it deserves.
It’s hard to convey but, as a viewer, there are genuine stakes for you too when you watch these auctions – it’s genuinely really gutting when an expert spends £100 on a lot that makes nothing. Similarly, when something that looks like a piece of tat makes a mint, it’s really exciting – I remember watching a rotting mangle go for something like £50, and it is strangely satisfying and bizarre. It’s engaging yet, because the cash values involved are frequently really low, it doesn’t get too stressful.
There are genuine stakes for you too when you watch these auctions – it’s genuinely really gutting when an expert spends £100 on a lot that makes nothing
Coupled with this, we also get to enjoy some really scenic places as the experts drive through the country. There is more than geography, however, as each episode sees our experts learn a bit of history – the two experts will go to a site of local or national history, and we’ll get to pick up that knowledge too. Because these are antiques experts, the little history lessons are typically held in museums and accompanied by artefacts and exhibits, and there’s something about the physical nature that makes it more real. I love these little side-trips, and I love seeing the experts learning too.
The gel that keeps all of this together is the presenters themselves. These people are flashy, showbiz types – they’re down-to-earth, likeable and they all seem like they’re having a great time, and their positive energy really shines through the screen. You get to know them as personalities – so, for example, if I see Paul Laidlaw on a road trip, I know he’ll always have one eye on his militaria. Watch regularly enough and you’ll find your favourites (mine are Christina Trevanion, James Braxton and Charles Hanson, because they all seem like the nicest people in the world), but all the experts seem so friendly, it’s impossible to dislike any of them.
In a period of unprecedented global anxiety, we need nice and positive things to lift our spirits, and there are few things that fit that description more than Antiques Road Trip
Antiques Road Trip is a show that, on paper, probably shouldn’t have the sticking power it does. But the whole production is so breezy and pleasant, and all the experts so genuinely likeable, that it’s hard to pull yourself away once you get engaged – you want to know who wins, and you want to see the journey. In a period of unprecedented global anxiety, we need nice and positive things to lift our spirits, and there are few things that fit that description more than Antiques Road Trip – an unassuming contender for one of the best shows on TV.