Antiques Roadshow, Flog It!, Bargain Hunt, Cash in The Attic, Dickinson's Real Deal – there’s no doubt the BBC and ITV recognise the crucial role selling old stuff plays in the cultural fabric of the UK. Indeed, one cannot help but be impressed by the wisdom of splurging thousands of quids constructing a permanent festival of car boot sales and shabby salesrooms, the better to afford Tim Wonnacott a comfortable retirement.
It makes so much more sense than, for instance, investing in shows designed to intelligently and creatively cover obscure and irrelevant interests like music, photography, design or art. After all, who’s bothered about creativity? Nobody, that’s who. We’ve moved on from all that nonsense, granddad. Getting a fiver for a pewter tankard – that’s where the action is, matey.
"When exactly did Britain ever manage to influence the aesthetic tastes of the human race?"
Imagine if our network broadcasters did expend time and effort on shows featuring writers, thinkers, artists and designers. Wouldn’t that just give the world the impression we take all that guff seriously, when everybody knows the British creative industry has never amounted to a hill of beans. When exactly did Britain ever manage to influence the aesthetic tastes of the human race? Never! It’s our exceptional, provincial auction houses and endless collections of horse brasses that mark us out across the globe. And I, for one, am proud we adhere so rigidly to those proud traditions.
Of course, for that tiny minority of sad sorts who retain an interest in creative matters, the Beeb generously screens a thing called ‘The Culture Show’– brilliantly scheduled at a time most sensible folk won't notice it. This ensures the whole nonsense remains a very niche activity, without distracting the nation from its porcelain figurines and Victorian picnic baskets.
"I’m told BBC4 often transmits programmes about the arts."
There is much criticism of the TV companies and the ways in which they conduct their business, but at least they can hold up their heads and point to their extensive coverage of chipped toby jugs and rusty spoons, as proof they have their priorities in order. We should also applaud them for their exceptional work in the fields of interior decoration, house buying, cookery, traffic police and ballroom dancing; all of which are significantly more important than something as ludicrously trivial as the creative trades.
I’m told BBC4 often transmits programmes about the arts. Well, if we must put up with such perversity, sticking it on an obscure, easily ignored channel strikes me as the perfect arrangement.
Frankly, when I see another pretty lady or handsome chap baking scones on the telly, I breathe a sigh of relief. More cakes and antiques, that's what we all expect from television sets. Endless shows for people clearing out their lofts, and trying to offload Uncle Charlie’s collection of fishing tackle for a few bob, and barely any on arts and the creative industries? Bravo! Exactly as it should be.
Magnus Shaw is a copywriter, podcaster and blogger.