In the television business, nothing is sturdier than a simple concept done well.
That would appear to be the case with “Antiques Roadshow,” the PBS Monday-night staple that starts its 26th season in the United States on January 3.
Twenty-six years is a long run on television by any measure, but the original “Antiques Roadshow” has actually been on for 42 years (44 seasons) in the U.K. (the BBC), where the concept was first hatched and put into production in 1979.
In addition to the American version of “Antiques Roadshow,” other versions are seen today in at least seven other countries -- Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.
The “Antiques Roadshow” idea is the very definition of the “elevator presentation,” in which a concept for a project is so simple that it can be described and understood in the time it takes to take an elevator to an upper floor.
This show’s concept is: Ordinary people bring old objects from their homes and then get them appraised by experts. Some will be disappointed. Others will be amazed at the values their keepsakes might command in the antique and collectibles markets.
I just read this aloud and it timed out at just under 10 seconds to deliver it. I did not happen to be in an elevator, but I think the point is made.
In fact, the above photo from next month’s season premiere perfectly represents a classic “Antiques Roadshow” moment when an ordinary person (in this case, someone who is unnamed in the press material provided by the show’s producing public TV station, WGBH Boston) hears that the object (a marble bust) that he has lugged to the “Roadshow” is worth a surprising amount of money.
The photo is from the upcoming season premiere. The appraiser in the picture is one of the show’s regulars, Eric Silver.
And that is another thing about “Antiques Roadshow” that makes it so endearing to long-time viewers: So many of the experts and appraisers have been on the show so long that they are like old friends at this point.
The American version of “Antiques Roadshow” premiered on PBS in 1997. It evidently achieved the status of a cultural phenomenon in a very short time because just two years later, it became the centerpiece of an episode of “Frasier.”
The show was the seventh episode of the critically acclaimed comedy’s seventh season. It aired on November 11, 1999.
The episode had Frasier and Niles getting together at Frasier’s apartment to watch that evening’s episode of “Antiques Roadshow,” which was revealed to be the snobby siblings’ favorite show.
Their blue-collar dad, Martin, even joined them to watch the show that evening. He also participated in the brothers’ traditional “Antiques Roadshow” drinking game in which they each took a sip of wine (in Martin’s case, beer) whenever anyone on the show said the word “veneer.”
Eventually, Frasier and Niles learn that the show will soon visit Seattle to appraise objects brought by residents of the northwest region. Of course, Frasier and Niles must also participate, with hilarious results.
That was 22 years ago, and “Antiques Roadshow” is still going strong. Its 26th-season premiere next month originates from Middletown, Connecticut, at the Wadsworth Mansion, a plush event space in a turn-of-the-20th-century mansion.
Among the highlights: The show’s first-ever appraisal of a classic car in its entire history.