Film and TV

Reality Bites: Storage Wars

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch all of them, one at a time.

"Sight Unseen" is now "Reality Bites," for no real reason other than writing about reality programming is simultaneously hilarious and depressing and lends itself well to my need for intensive behavior modification.

This week, I'm checking out A&E's Storage Wars, which starts with a Dragnet-level ominous voice-over:

"When storage units are abandoned, the treasures within are put up for auction."

Emphasis added. Because if you weren't aware the term "treasure" connoted costume jewelry and old bicycles, you're about to come correct.

So if you rent a storage unit in California and don't pay the rent for three months, the storage place can auction off your stuff. Buyers get to look inside the units, but can only bid based on visual inspection.

I'd hate to be an amateur...what do you call these people, "storage foragers?" Whatever, I'd hate to be some random man or woman who decided to stab at bidding on some abandoned property and then saw these three jerkoffs descend upon my sleepy community. Also, I understand the show itself has contributed to increased turnout at storage auctions across the country (thank you, Us Magazine).

That's because Storage Wars appeals to the scavenger in all of us, though I'm not sure how many of us are willing to paw through another person's property. I watch too many horror movies, so I always equate storage units with body parts. How do I know I'm not going to open an abandoned cabinet and pull out Benjamin Raspail's head?

And just what happened to these people who stopped paying rent? Who abandons cases full of (admittedly semiprecious) jewelry, or a safe with over $2K in it? What happened to the kids these toys belonged to? The show's only 30 minutes long, but it bummed the hell out of me.

Last night's episode -- we're in season 2, I understand -- took us to Upland, California, where I meet the players. There's Jarrod and Brandi, a couple who operate together. Jarrod is known as the "Young Gun," presumably because he looks like a bald Casey Siemaszko. The couple regularly butts heads with Dave "The Mogul" Hester. Dave is apparently pretty important, because he wears both a shirt and a hat with his name on them. Thankfully we never get a look at his underwear.

Then there's Darrell Sheets, who is such a dead ringer for Leon from Blade Runner I was terrified he was going to tell me about his mother. Darrell doesn't want to hear any of Jarrod and Dave's shit, as he's recently experienced some divorce, child custody and "home invasion stuff." I assume he was on the receiving end of that, but one never knows with old Leon.

Barry gets the first unit for $700. I forgot to mention Barry, who reminds me of Joe Walsh in about ten years: broke, incoherent and possibly homeless. For all that, he ends up with a cuckoo clock worth $10. There's another Joe Walsh joke there, but I'm not up for it.

Okay, Dave really is kind of an asshole, and he needles J&B throughout their bid for the unit with the jewelry in it, eventually getting it for $4K. That said, Jarrod and Brandi appear to be kind of dumb, and are easily needled.

For their part, Jarrod and Brandi get the furniture/bike unit for $750.

Apparently a big part of the show is rationalizing your purchase. J&B seem rather optimistic that the furniture they've ended up with is anything better than kindling, while Dave claims the costume jewelry unit is a good deal, maintaining the green stones in a necklace are "polished jade." Okay. He lucks out, however, when he discovers a portfolio of old French watercolors and a safe containing $2,200.

I don't know about you, but I'd be terrified to come across a few thousand dollars in one of these storage units, much less gleefully tuck it in my pockets on national TV, possibly while some drug dealer with dreams of opening a Zales franchise watches his TV in ever-growing rage.

Storage Wars is like the anti-Antiques Roadshow: Everyone paws through forgotten items, most of it worthless crap, devoid of any feelings except the desire for profit. Get used to 9 percent unemployment, America. Your new economy is simply buying and selling your fellow citizens' garbage.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar