A&E's reality hit "Storage Wars" has the irresistible allure of a modern day treasure hunt. It is dumpster diving for the age of economic default. As with most reality programming, there is a bit of contrivance to the set-up. A crew of easily definable characters is established that will be your guide for the nineteen episodes of Season One. With titles such as The Collector and The Gambler, the primary stars of "Storage Wars" are a quartet of entrepreneurs that go to auctions to purchase unclaimed and unpaid storage facilities. With five minutes to peruse the contents of a unit from afar (they aren't allowed into a space or to touch anything), they must decide whether or not to bid on the property. Using savvy or instinct, it's pay and play for our heroes--who sometimes score big rewards or major disappointment.
While, to my mind, the concept alone doesn't necessarily scream entertainment--there is no denying the fascination in this culture of uncovering something for nothing. Of course, the idea is to claim a space for the lowest price possible, but bidders oftentimes drive the auction up on one another simply to deplete their cash supply. Every transaction is done with folding money only, so any apparent treasures tend to go to the fellow with the largest stack. This becomes evident early on when a unit of restaurant machinery sells for around $2700 and its obvious resale value would far exceed that. While glib and irresistible, the show spends little time exploring the darker aspect of its premise. Just what awful circumstance befell the unit renter that caused a default on a space with $20K worth of equipment? There is a sadder underbelly when you think too hard about it all.
But let's not dwell. This is reality adventure and is certainly successful entertainment. The personalities involved are colorful and play for the camera. Everyone loves a gamble and so this can become an easy addiction. With an episode coming in just over 20 minutes, the show is fast paced, amusing, and has an almost instant payoff. Sometimes when they hit a big payday, I had to wonder "why didn't I think of doing this?" Other times, I just think "who needs more junk in their lives." You can't help but play along. At one point, a half empty space looks worthless only to have a mini BMW in it. Anything is possible, and unraveling the mysteries is part of the show's excitement. Fun and lightweight, the first season runs approximately 7 hours over 3 DVDs (with the previously mentioned 19 episodes). KGHarris, 8/11.