The American version of Cash In The Attic is a truly unique mix of lifestyle / reality / educational / and "money making" programming. There is not another show on television you can point to and say "Cash In The Attic is just like (fill in the blank) ". For a Tv critic this is a very rare thing to say.
Usually, shows with as many moving parts as Cash In The Attic don't move well at all. The fact that Cash In The Attic weaves together the emotion of families debating to part with an heir loom, fascinating factoids about a Victorian table, the surprise of valuable discoveries in ones own attic, the brutal suspense of the auction, and the sheer entertainment value of a charismatic host (John Sencio) is no small feet for the producers.
The first thought that comes to mind after watching an episode of the American version of Cash In The Attic is "Fun". I emphasize "American" version because Cash In The Attic it is based on a British program by the same name and by the same producers - yet the British version is decidedly different and very dry.
From the get go the viewer knows they are in for a ride when The Cash In The Attic van comes roaring up to house and the host and appraiser pop out to greet the family. The viewer instantly learns how much money the family is trying to raise and for what purpose (landscaping, refrigerator, sun windows, etc.) Then we are off to the races.
Most people I know are not "antique junkies" and it's a credit to Cash In The Attic that they will sell anything the family is willing to part with - thus keeping the viewers ability to relate very high. Many of us do not have classic orange Czechoslovakian glass but many of us do have an old toaster, bike, or mirror collecting dust in the attic. The frenzy of the search for items to sell is excellent entertainment. Watching the family discover items they literally forgot they had creates very amusing strolls down memory lane. The most riveting moments come when we discover an item that is dear to the heart of the owner… yet has been hidden in a closet for a decade. Watching the wife describe how an old clock was in her grandmothers house, her mothers house, and how she (suddenly) wants to put it up in her house while the husband is reminding her that they need to raise $4,000 for a new master bathtub is compelling suburban drama.
One would think after the rollercoaster ride of finding items to sell (or not to sell) that the highpoint of the ride would be over. Not so. Cash In The Attic keeps you wondering until the very end if the family will reach their target for that special project. You want "real" in your reality programming? Put a family heirloom up at an auction expecting to raise $500 dollars and look at the face of the owner as it sells for only $95 bucks. That's real! Conversely I love the concept of "found money". This is when an item of the previous homeowner is discovered in the attic and according to the expert appraiser has incredible value. Watching an item the family never owned, that's estimated to sell for $1,000 (yes one thousand dollars) triple in price (yes, three thousand dollars) is "reality TV" magic.
In every episode, whether the family reaches their target or not, some version of the special project is done to satiate the viewers subconscious craving for logic. Honestly, every time I see the "before & after" shot of the special project at the end of an episode it's almost an afterthought – "oh yeah, that's why they went crazy for a day". I also need to mention the host of Cash In The Attic, John Sencio. I'm not usually a "pro-host" viewer or critic - for my taste, too often hosts just get in the way. I have to confess though, that John Sencio is absolutely fantastic on Cash In The Attic. The guy is funny, smart, and really keeps the party moving. Also (not to reinforce antiquated viewer stereotypes… but I will), as a woman I like looking at attractive men. Curiously, with a show that is as well designed as Cash In The Attic, I simply don't think it would be nearly as effective without John Sencio - kudos to the producers for landing this guy.
The American version of Cash In The Attic is a true accomplishment. This is a show on Hgtv (that is antique centric) that my husband and kids will actually watch it with me and really enjoy! Wonders never cease.
Cash In The Attic can be seen weekly on Hgtv.
TV Critic, Jan 06