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‘Shipping Wars’ Shows Networks Can’t Get Enough of Stuff – NY Daily News

Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Hard as it may seem to believe, there’s something we enjoy on television as much as sex jokes.
We love stuff.
A&E, which is tuned in to these kinds of desires, has just announced it’s adding another show to the stuff pile: a 10-part reality series called “Shipping Wars” that starts Jan. 10.
Nominally, the show focuses on the challenges of transporting things that are enormous, expensive, fragile or just plain unwieldy, from a high-end car to a Civil War cannon.
But really, it’s about stuff. The same way “Hoarders” is about stuff and “Storage Wars” is about stuff and “American Pickers” is about stuff.
Nor is it just the blue-collar cable TV world that knows this.
Kat Dennings’ Max made this point on the CBS sitcom “2 Broke Girls” a few weeks back during an episode about hoarders, when she said she couldn’t get enough of them because they simultaneously scared and fascinated her.
Even PBS is not immune. “Antiques Roadshow” may wear a better suit than “Pawn Stars,” but in the end it’s asking the same question: What is my stuff worth?
That’s an almost universal question. Whether we have two bags full of stuff in a grocery cart or cargo crates in a warehouse the size of Costco, we are always assessing it, wondering what to leave in and what to leave out.
Much as we might admire the Gandhi model of freeing ourselves by owning nothing, most of us live closer to the Madonna model. It’s a material world.
So a big part of what fascinates us about “Auction Hunters” and “American Restoration” and “Hoarding: Buried Alive” is our relationship with stuff.
What does a $2 million automobile mean to someone who owns one? What value do you put on your late great-grandmother’s locket?
Adding to the intrigue, stuff is rarely static. It stays in motion. We’re trying to figure out how we can afford an iPad at the same time we’re debating whether to just throw out the PlayStation that we were trying to afford five years ago.
Because millions of PlayStations are gathering dust all over America, rationally we know there’s probably nothing else to do with it. On the other hand, when we have a history with something that was once valuable, we hate to toss it. The notion that it must be worth something to somebody is hard to discard.
Most TV shows about stuff address that issue, and they regularly point out that the occasional piece of stuff has ongoing or even increasing value.
That’s enough to keep hope alive. Problem is, most of our stuff just times out. We’ve gotten out of it all we’re going to get.
One reason TV sitcoms and soaps talk about sex so much is that it’s an easy way to deal with a subject that can be awkward to articulate or discuss directly.
In its own odd way, that may be one reason we have so many shows about stuff.
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