In my time I’ve been a horrible snob about reality TV. A Big Brother refusenik from the time the first ad appeared (“How can they call it that? Can they not hear Orwell spinning in his grave?”), a curmudgeon about X-Factor, a paid-up enemy of Britain’s Got Talent (although being a fan of creatures, I was impressed that a dog was the most talented act our nation had to offer) and an arch-avoider of The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea.
Who am I kidding? Just because talent shows leave me cold and if I want to see a roomful of people arguing, I can visit my parents for the weekend, I’m as hooked as the next telly addict. I just prefer my reality to involve making, baking, selling or salvaging, rather than dreaming, screaming and singing. Masterchef. The Great British Bake Off. Antiques Roadshow (surely the unsung forefather of today’s reality gold rush, now I come to think of it.)
I realised this recently after spending a week’s holiday glued to a show I hadn’t come across before. Salvage Hunters, on Quest, had salvaging, making AND selling, and no fake tan or false eyelashes. It followed a very pleasant chap called Drew Pritchard, a dealer in architectural salvage, going about his rounds trying to find things to but to refurbish and sell in his antiques emporium in north Wales. He had a nice team, a lovely little dog, a fascinating business and there were no tears or shouting.
So impressed was I that I did something I never thought I’d do. I became a reality-show groupie. I was staying near Conwy, the Welsh town where he and his wife Rebecca have their real-life business. It was on the route home. I could just pop in, see if reality matched reality TV.
My husband and I, hardened media types that we are, were squeaking with excitement when we drove into the car park. The stock on sale in the icy cold warehouse was amazing, and as soon as I have the space for an antique rectory table and a pulpit or two, I know where to go.
We spotted some things that we seen on the telly (squeak!) and when the time came to pay for our purchases, Drew himself served us (squeak squeak!). The reality? He was exactly like he was on the box.
Pleasant, friendly, and knew his stuff. We ‘fessed up to being there because we’d watched the show. We asked how the show compared to day-to-day life. The only big difference, Drew said, was that reality was blooming freezing. How refreshing.
A new series of Salvage Hunters starts on Monday 18 February, 9pm on Quest