In 10 Words or Less
Fascinating insight into unbearable people
Loves: Storage Wars, documentaries
Likes: the unknown
Hates: Reality TV
Advertising does work. A few weeks ago I was working my way trough my queue on Hulu when I saw an ad for the season premiere of an A&E show called "Storage Wars." I watch exactly zero shows on this network, and disdain reality TV (though I have a soft spot for reality competition shows, if they are creating something as part of the competition.) But watching this ad, I found myself somehow entranced by these aggressive people trying to screw each other over, with a mysterious prize going to the victor. I've since blown through every episode available and look forward to each 30 minute morsel to come. I just don't understand why I like it.
The series follows a quartet of bidders at storage auctions in the Southern California area, as they try to find a big score. The auctions take place at various storage units, led by motormouth Dan and his lovely bride Laura, and are as close as gambling as auctions get. The abandoned unit is opened, bidders get five minutes to look from the door and then the auction begins. You bid based on what you can see and various clues, hints and hunches. Sometimes, you find valuable collectibles beneath mounds of household trash. Sometimes the expensive item you spot turns out to be a worthless fake. There's genuine technique and strategy to the game, but luck is just as important.
The four focal participants are some of the most unlikeable stars seen on TV this side of the Real Housewives. Dave Hester is the group's veteran, most professional and most cut-throat bidder, buying up units to stock his secondhand store, utilizing his trademark "Yuup" bid to intimidate and annoy the competition. He's the future for Jarrod Schulz, a relative beginner in the game, who, with his wife and partner Brandi, runs a small thrift store of his own. His ego wouldn't betray his status though, and it frequently leads to arguments with Brandi.
Darryl Sheets, who, without a store to sell things, views himself as a gamble, in all his tank-top glory, is the redneck of the group, getting into it with his opponents while making ridiculous, dumb and/or obvious statements during his talking head segments. His bravado makes his failures fun. And then, there's the most entertaining of the four, the Robert Evans stand-in called Barry Weiss. With his feathered gray hair, unique fashion sense and network of well-placed friends, he's always got something interesting to say and, as the newest bidder, he makes enough missteps to keep things lively. This series could have been just about him trying to build his collection and it would have been well worth watching.
Considering the genre is one I generally avoid (though there is a competitive angle, enhanced by the use of on-screen scoreboards keeping track of the bidders' profits) and the subjects are mostly obnoxious, my continued interest is as much a mystery as the locked storage units. The way the series reveals the goods, shows the bidding and then lets you see the bidder discover their good fortune or folly is as engaging as a good mystery, reminding me of the promise inside of each pack of baseball cards I would buy as a child. That anyone can attend one of these auctions in real life just makes it more accessible and appealing. I kept thinking of the storage unit I rented until recently, and how disappointed a bidder would have been if I let my rent lapse, with a jogging stroller being the key get.
The first season starts off by introducing us to the main players (Laura and Brandi's roles grow with time) before settling into the show's solid formula at each auction. While it's pretty much purely entertaining schadenfreude, there are definitely lessons to learn, as the buyers share interesting tips on how to read a unit, and you'll discover collectibles you'd never know of otherwise, like the unusual Isetta microcar, which has a door on the front of the car. Without exception, someone will find something they can't put a value on, requiring a visit to a specialist, who gets to dramatically reveal the true value to either a jubilant or crestfallen new owner. It can feel a bit like a set-up at times (and accusations have been made that the producers abandon quality merchandise for the buyers to find) but it doesn't matter. As long as one of these anti-heroes gets their comeuppance by buying $1,000 of worthless crap, it's a good time for all.
The first season of Storage Wars is spread over three DVDs, which arrive in a standard-width keepcase, with a double-sided tray. The discs feature static menus with options to watch all the episodes or select shows. There are no audio options or subtitles, but closed captioning is included.
The anamorphic widescreen transfers on this set look as good as the show does when it airs on TV, which is to say it looks like the natural-light video footage the storage-unit settings facilitate. There are no issues with digital compression, and the level of fine detail is moderately high, but it's not the prettiest show on DVD.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio tracks offer the same balanced, center-focused mix heard when the show airs on TV, delivering clean, distortion-free dialogue, blending well with the fun, bouncy score.
Not a single extra included. I'd love for one of these reality series to show us the behind-the-scenes of how the talking head segments are produced. Or at least give us uncensored versions.
The Bottom Line
I'm not entirely proud of it, but I would consider myself a fan of Storage Wars, as it's a fascinating look at a creepy little fringe of society, with enough going on to make every episode entertaining. The discs look at sound just fine, but there are no extras to round out the package, so it's worth to you is purely in the convenience of watching these episodes however and whenever you want. You can't go wrong with the series though.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.