Do you like watching Antiques Roadshow on PBS? We do, but over the weekend, we had a chance to watch Antiques Roadshow UK, its British cousin produced by the BBC. Here's why we found the UK version so appealing - and it's not just because we love antiques!
The format is largely the same, aside from the shooting locations (often on the grounds of old manor houses). Everyday people bring in heirlooms, "boot sale" finds, and other treasures for experts to identify and appraise.
What's not the same on Antiques Roadshow UK are the types of items that people bring to the show. While the U.S. program concentrates on Americana, U.S. antique furniture, items once owned by politicians and celebrities, and artwork from the Americas, the U.K. segments have a different mix.
Some celebrity and Royal memorabilia gets featured on the U.K. version, but we also noticed there are British antiques from the upper class/aristocracy as well as a large number of antique toys.
There is also a much larger international presence on the U.K. program. For centuries, the global span of Britain's empire sent millions of sons and daughters to all corners of the globe, and many of them brought back art, antiques, spoils of conquest, and personal mementos.
During one of the programs we watched yesterday, a British expert on Asian antiques asked a visitor, "What possessed you to bring this small porcelain cat to the Antiques Roadshow?" It turned out to Japanese, dating from the 1680s.
While the American show almost always highlights items with significant monetary value, the U.K. Antiques Roadshow sometimes surfaces objects with little value at auction, but special historical or cultural significance.
One such item was an illustrated cloth scroll, made by members of the British Suffragette movement. Using cartoons, the scroll speculated on the changes the Suffragettes hoped to see by the year 1981. The cartoons depicted various ideals that eventually came to pass, from women serving as Army officers to the then-unusual concept of men taking care of babies. "I'm staggered by it and slightly at a loss about how to value it," noted the appraiser.
The hosts and appraisers on Antiques Roadshow UK use language and dialogue in a charismatic and humorous way that's different than their staid American counterparts. One of the experts enthusiastically describes his work on the show as "Exquisite Torture, because I know these treasures will be whisked away and I will never see them again."
Finally, one of the most interesting things we learned is other countries have a version of Antiques Roadshow, with their own quirks. For instance, there is a version of the Antiques Roadshow in China ... and apparently, if they encounter a fake antique, they smash it with a hammer on the spot!