Friday, November 20, 2009

TV: The Relic Hunter

Have you ever wondered where the items in a curio store come from? Were they dug out of some spinster's attic? Were they traded for in a faraway auction house? Even in the age of eBay, there's still a certain ineffable fascination with exotic objects.

"The Relic Hunter" (not to be confused with the kitschy Tia Carerre vehicle) is a new series on Travel Channel that does a good job of evoking this fascination. It follows a curio store owner in his search for unique items to sell in his shop:

There could have easily been the whiff of 19th century imperialism about the proceedings, but Ian Grant is such a guileless, ecologically and socially sensitive host that the series avoids the perception that the show is looting native peoples (check out his website if you don't believe me). Instead, it's a celebration of unique cultures and items from around the world. Everything from an Amazon River boat paddle to a Kazakhstan ceremonial implement is treated like a valuable souvenir - a welcome antidote for anyone jaded by too much assembly line plastic.

"The Relic Hunter" is one of the few Travel Channel shows that doesn't involve food (Travel Channel's primetime hits: "No Reservations," "Bizarre Foods," "Man v. Food"), so I suppose that may limit its audience. For anyone with even a hint of the collecting bug, however, the opportunity to see cool stuff from different countries should be enough a draw.


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