By this point, even the most diehard storage auction reality show fans are starting to face the facts: None of these shows are 100% authentic. Reality TV doesn’t so much show real life as a glossy, action-packed melodramatic version of real life. After all, it takes a bit of “TV magic” to turn our regular, boring everyday lives into the kind of gripping drama that gets people to tune in week after week.
So there’s always some element of dramatization going on in these shows, whether it’s the participants hamming it up a little for the camera to create memorable characters or tons of less-than-thrilling material landing on the cutting room floor.
Of course, Dave Hester’s lawsuit against Storage Wars blew the whole topic wide open. His allegation was that the show was almost entirely faked, frequently showing “salted” units that had interesting items planted in them by the production company. And, as storage shows go, Storage Wars has always been the most believable.
Which brings us back to Storage Hunters: UK, the newest kid on the block.
Storage Hunters: UK follows American auctioneer Sean Kelly (star of the American Storage Hunters on TruTV) as he travels through the United Kingdom to host storage auctions for an array of colorful characters. The original Storage Hunters was a surprising smash hit over the pond, with episodes being aired on the Dave network (a British channel that runs local programs like Red Dwarf alongside other imports like Man vs Food), so a homegrown spin-off seems like the natural next step for the series.
Storage Hunters has always been one of the most outlandish and overly dramatic members of the storage auction reality TV family. While other shows threaten your willing suspension of disbelief by showing unbelievably rare or valuable items popping up in a lot of units, Storage Hunters likes to push your credulity a little bit further with truly bizarre discoveries and a generous sprinkling of Jerry Springer-like fights.
Storage Hunters: UK is cut from the same cloth. After all, why mess with the formula that made the show so successful in the first place? The program premiered with an impressive 1.1 million viewers, making it pretty clear that UK audiences were eager for more storage hunters behaving badly.
But how much of it is real?
It’s safe to say that, for the most part, the characters on the show are pretty much real people. This isn’t like an Auction Hunters situation where small-time actors are looking to make it big on reality TV. All of the bidders on the show are genuine resellers, from antiques dealers to online storefront runners. Only one cast member, Daniel Hill, has an IMDB credit for anything other than himself – and that, curiously, is as an uncredited body double for Sacha Baron Cohen in Les Miserables. There’s probably quite a story behind that, but otherwise “Dapper Dan” seems pretty committed to his day job as a furniture dealer.
So the people they’ve hired are real buyers, as near as we can tell, but their on-camera hijinks are probably hyped up for the camera. Because, let’s face it: If the frequent (sometimes several-times-in-one-episode) arguments and out-and-out fist-fights on the show weren’t scripted, you can bet these guys would find themselves thrown out of the auction sooner or later for being a huge nuisance.
But what really stretches the limits of believability with Storage Hunters: UK are the units themselves.
When you’re watching the show, you can’t help but notice that the units seem to be rather conveniently staged. Nearly all of them are perfectly themed. Here’s a unit full of nothing but circus equipment. Here’s one with a ton of bicycles. Here’s one totally full of exercise gear. You never seem to find a unit full of mixed, normal items – a box of clothes here, an exercise bike there, an old couch here. You know, like a real person might actually keep in their storage unit. Who owned these units before they got on the show?
But then you reach heights of absolute absurdity, like the pilot episode where they opened up a unit to discover a raw heart in a basket.
Considering how hot it gets in a storage unit, and how long a unit has to be in default before it can go up for auction, the odds of you finding a perfectly fresh-looking, not-putrid heart just lying in a basket are basically nil.
Of course, this is from the same production company that brought you exotic finds like “Naked man in a cage” and “Conveniently rigged controlled explosion” on the American show, so nobody should be surprised.
As the series progresses, we’re likely to see things get even more outlandish because the laws governing reality TV and storage auctions are different in the UK than they are in the US. For example, until the storage auction craze really hit the world, auctions of that type weren’t really popular in Britain. While US facilities usually sell a person’s belongings in their entirety, it’s completely normal in the UK to divide up a person’s abandoned items and sell them piece-by-piece. So with that in mind, it should come as no surprise that these units are probably staged well in advance for dramatic effect.
Here’s the bottom line: Nobody’s really watching Storage Hunters: UK for an informative look at the auction business. They’re tuning in because it’s the very best of trash TV, with enough mystery, weirdness and drama to keep you engaged. If that’s your bag, just sit back and enjoy – but don’t expect to get by with starting a brawl at the next auction you attend.
What’s your opinion on Storage Hunters UK? Do you think it’s real of fake? Leave your interesting and creative responses in the comments section below.