Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Well, thank goodness! They finally fixed Antiques Roadshow so it's not just an endless string of rich white people.

I guess somebody else must have noticed and criticized. Somebody must have told them that a better name for the show would have been "White People Who Inherit Stuff From Rich Parents, Plus A Few Who Go To Estate Sales While They Weekend in Connecticut."

I'm pretty sure PBS didn't intend it this way: they just didn't think the whole thing through. "We'll get all kinds of people who want to get their valuables appraised," they probably told themselves. "I'm sure there's a ton of blacks whose grandparents collected paintings from the Hudson River School, or Hispanics with aunts who begged Charles Schulz for original Peanuts drawings." Unfortunately, reality was a cold slap in the face.

After a few years, though, PBS came up with a solution: they'd tack on an ending where they'd show people who brought in stuff that wasn't valuable. In their new Feedback Booth section, anybody can offer a quick comment about what fun they had during filming, or how disappointed they are that the ashtray they found at a garage sale is only worth two bucks. The tactic buys them at least one non-white face a week.

In the face of this success, I'm thinking other shows should adopt a similar strategy. Like, they could do the same thing on Bait Car. That's the show where cops leave a nice car in a bad neighborhood and then wait for somebody to take it. If they think it'll be a long wait, they'll enact a little scene to draw attention to the car. A cop in a marked police car will pull over an undercover officer in the bait car and give him a sobriety test. "Why, you're drunk!" he'll shout like a first-year drama student. "I'm going to take you downtown right now! We'll leave your car unlocked and the keys in the ignition but I'm sure it will be safe here!"

"Oh, golly!" murmurs an onlooker. "What a turn of good luck!" He jumps into the car the minute the cops drive away. Before he's gotten half a mile, though, the locks are triggered and the engine is disabled remotely, so the thief is trapped until more police show up.

Nobody seems bothered that the show is all white police entrapping men of color, but I guess there's no way around it. I mean, the cops can't leave the bait car in a white neighborhood, because it might take hours for the thing to get swiped, and there are donuts to be ate. Just to add the occasional white face, though, maybe they could go to a white neighborhood and ask people how they'd feel if the cops targeted them like that.

"A sting?" an elderly woman might ask. "In our neighborhood? How delightful!" "I'll bet my neighbor would take it," somebody else might reply. "Can you believe the state of his lawn?"

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