For those who've never seen BARGAIN HUNT, it consists of two teams, the "red" and the "blue", each of two people, each given an amount of cash, 200 pounds early on, later increased to 300 pounds, to spend at collectors' fairs, antique centres and similar markets on three items of choice, with a one-hour time limit. Each team is provided with an "expert" in the form of an antique dealer or auctioneer who can advise on possible purchases. Whether or not their advice is taken, is up to the teams. Later the items will be sold at auction and profits if any go to the teams. The two experts each buy an item, which will be offered to the two teams as "swaps", if they wish to swap. To simplify things, commissions and other auction fees aren't taken into account.
Reality shows come and go, but BARGAIN HUNT rolls on and on. This is due in no small part to the welcome presence of England's most amiable host, Tim Wonnacott.
The original host for BH was the effervescent David Dickinson who polarized viewers; they either loved or hated him. I found David both interesting and entertaining, despite what other people have written about him here and elsewhere. However, the arrival of Tim Wonnacott brought a more cheerful and learned presence. Tim's extensive knowledge of the "trade", endearing manner and ability to get along with almost everybody makes for an entertaining and informative 45 minutes. No two shows are quite the same, although the same background filler material may be apparent from multi-used locations. Several episodes will be filmed at one spot with purchased items going through the same auction.
This reviewer is currently watching 2006 episodes in Australia so the show's format may have changed in later series. Tim often visits stately homes or other interesting landmarks in the area. He introduces the viewer to choice items and talks of their history. For me, this is the highpoint of each show. Occasionally he reveals bargains he's picked up, or items he's spotted in the auction. You'll see the results of his "auction finds" when they are auctioned as well as the items from the two teams. Occasionally he puts items in the auction with any profit going to charity.
The show does well in gathering a cross section of society, with parent/child, co-workers and entire families making up the teams. Rarely do the teams consist of people with any genuine knowledge of collectables. So it may seem strange that it's not unusual for them to ignore the experts. Often they buy items without having the good manners to at least show their expert until the deed is done! This isn't to say the experts are right all the time. Often they aren't, far from it. This all goes to make each show good fun. You never know what to expect.
The experts are often more interesting and entertaining than the team contestants. With hundreds of episodes watched, these experts and auctioneers, together with Tim's expertise, have become my main reasons for watching. Originally it was to see the collectables but in reality, one tires of seeing contestants buying the same old things: blue and white plates, timber boxes, cut glass decanters, "aged" kitchenalia made last week and boxed sets of plated spoons which no one wants! It's not unusual to see experts and auctioneers playing dual roles. BARGAIN HUNT is like a real life version of MIDSOMER MURDERS on some levels. In one episode Philip Serrell or Elizabeth Talbot will be the auctioneer; five episodes later they'll pop up as an expert. Philip And Elizabeth are my favorites, both having distinctively interesting personalities.
All up, BARGAIN HUNT scores my vote as the best slice of English reality television.