It must be fun being an expert in something, particularly if that something is rather obscure and linked to times past. However, if like me you can’t lay claim to any clever specialism, Antiques Master allows you to indulge in a little expert-ness from the security of your sofa, where no one can hear you pontificating about the objets d’art and getting it wrong every time.
Antiques Master is a half-hour game show for amateur antiques enthusiasts, so the presentation is livelier than that of its tweedy older sister, Antiques Roadshow. The pros on AR spend forever scrutinising the artefacts for revealing detail.
In Antiques Master, four antiques “part-timers”, who have squeezed a passion for things like historic biscuit tins into their weekends, have to date and value decaying teddy bears and intriguingly grotesque vases in a matter of seconds. It’s a real test of their depth of knowledge gleaned from years dedicated to poking about in second-hand shops and country auctions.
Eric Knowles is there to award the points. Sandi Toksvig sets the pace. It’s an appealing mix of charm and no-nonsense, and the tempo soon grows on you. It drags you out of your midevening torpor and obliges you to apply your brain – and whatever limited historical knowledge you happen to possess – to trying to beat the boffiny contestants at their own game. It looks easy, but it’s not.
The round most likely to get us punters shouting hopeless guesses at the telly is “Mystery Object”. Odd little “thingummys” have to be identified with the help of clues such as “bow-legged Anglo-Saxons would have needed one of these”. It’s baffling in a really entertaining way, yet one contestant usually comes up trumps while we at home marvel at the gadgetry of yesteryear.
Yes, there’s a definite thrill to puzzling over old objects, working out where they come from and what they were for. Even the most serious armchair expert will have to admit that the makers of Antiques Master have forensically stripped out the dull bits and show that, surprisingly, antiques are a lot of fun.