By Rory L. Aronsky | October 12, 2006

Last Thursday through last Sunday, I was on vacation in Palm Springs, thanks in all parts to my dad attending a California Business Education Association conference at the Hotel Zoso, where staying there would have been much more expensive had the conference not been held there.

As with any vacation, it’s true that you do things you don’t normally do at home. This was already apparent when Mom wanted a room closer to the elevator and the room they showed us after our own was thickly scented with cigarette smoke, despite it being a non-smoking room.

And of course, on this vacation, things were far more different than they are at home. When else can barbecue, Mexican, diner, and good fast food be consumed within four days? And finally, a good burger, courtesy of an A&W/KFC hybrid.

But that’s not all that was different. Mainly in TV viewing, which at home is limited to what’s on the Tivo (easier than sitting for hours at a time when something is on) or what shows I haven’t seen on DVD. I had time now, especially in the late evenings. While some programming was a huge failure (hard to watch the California gubernatorial debate without wanting to slap some personality into Phil Angelides), there was one program that became a huge favorite…and then sank out of favor.

It was during a late afternoon, while my father and sister were downstairs at the conference and Mom was on the patio of our room, that I drifted to BBC America and a show called “Cash in the Attic,” which finds a bevy of hosts, depending on the copyrighted year of each program, visiting a family or a married couple or a mother and daughter who want to get rid of some of what they have in their house in order to add something on to their home (for one mother, it was a backyard play area for her young daughter and a cordoned-off area for their dogs) or go on some trip or even just a weekend spa. Naturally, the cost for what they want is substantial, so the host and an antiques expert rummages through their house and come upon finds that may be worth something at an auction. In the early years of the show, there was one auction per half hour, but since the show has recently been expanded to an hour (though how recently, I’m not sure), there’s two auctions involving the same people waiting on the sidelines, hoping that the bids will rise higher and higher before they stop and the auctioneer bangs the gavel, cementing the final bid.

I was in awe of this. Never mind that during the commercials, BBC America continually pushed a documentary on cocaine in Britain. This was terrific entertainment! It was worth learning about some of the more boring ceramic items that some people owned in order to get to the auction. Who was interested in the items? Would they reach the estimate set by the antiques expert? What would be if the total pounds garnered from their items didn’t reach their goal? What would they have to cut back on?

Those latter two questions are given about 30 seconds airtime before the end credits, but if you get a person like the woman who needs 600 pounds to publish her book (if only they had provided excerpts from that book online), then it’s even more engrossing.

My attraction to this show carried over to our return to Santa Clarita. I wanted to Tivo more episodes of “Cash in the Attic,” whenever they aired. But the one thing that can turn anyone off this show is the awful writing for the host’s narration and on-camera moments. A friendly, laidback personality like Alistair Appleton can make the puns (don’t ask about the episode which featured an older woman who wanted to grow a championship garden) less suicidally painful.

Too hyperbolic? Hardly, when it happens episode after episode. Now I know shows like these are made on the cheap. All you need is a cameraman, soundman, the host, the antiques expert, and the people in question who want to go to auction with their trinkets are just happy to be on TV, happy to tell stories that would simply disappear in time, never heard by anyone else. It costs something to make this show happen. I could say that it doesn’t cost anything to sit down and write good lines that don’t cause wincing when they’re heard, but apparently for some writers, it’s mentally taxing to the point where it’s easy enough to just use puns. After all, there’s no thought required in puns and cliched puns are even better! To those writers on this show, those cliched puns are just words that have lasted for such a long time.

So the Monday after we got back, I decided to see if my puppy love for this show would last. There was an episode at 9:30 a.m. and then two episodes taking up the 6 p.m. hour. Good. I Tivo’d the 9:30 episode, watched it later and of course the puns were there. But with someone like Appleton, it’s easy to keep watching. The 6 p.m. episode had another host with a forgotten name and this guy seemed to be far too charismatic, turning the puns into WORDS THAT MUST BE HEARD! HEAR WHAT HE HAS TO SAY!

That was it. I was done with “Cash in the Attic.” I love the auctions, I like seeing what people have in their houses that may or may not be valuable, but one pun after another goes too far. And even in trying to get through the 6:30 p.m. episode, I couldn’t stand listening to any more of those. It’s what death must sound like to the ears. Forget loud screeching noises. At least the screeching has tonal differences.

So thanks BBC America for airing “Cash in the Attic,” and continuing to do so. When I told a friend about it, he said it sounded a bit like Antiques Roadshow. Perhaps it does, though I’ve never seen it. And who knows? Maybe I’ll come back to it, if an anti-pun antidote comes along that I can inject and happily watch “Cash in the Attic,” without wincing or nearly screaming from the torture.

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  1. Gigi says:

    And thanks to BBC America for popping in an episode or two of Black Adder once in a while!

    Hotel Zoso…is it owned by Robert PLant or Jimmy Page? 😉

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