It’s a great day when passionate collectors get to take the stage, and last night’s premiere of MeTV’s Collector’s Call had that spotlight shining bright. Lisa Whelchel (AKA Blair on The Facts of Life) is the amiable host, and in each episode, Whelchel visits a collector, along with an appraiser, to view their prized possessions.
In this first episode, the collector is Paul Lisnek, who has a passion for political memorabilia, Hollywood props, and memorabilia. His collection spans hundreds of years, from presidential signatures to recent movie props and celebrity autographs.
The show starts off by showing a couple of TV props, including an avocado green phone from The Dick Van Dyke Show, and a phone from I Love Lucy. The price estimate for both phones is $1,500, which Whelchel thinks is surprisingly low.
The next item is a pair of hats worn by Laurel and Hardy–possibly the only matched set in any collection. The pair is estimated to be worth $25,000, mainly because there are hats for both stars, not just one.
The next scene shifts to some of Lisnek’s movie props, including items from several Tom Cruise movies. One of his treasures is a creepy poodle prop that was used in An Interview with the Vampire. He paid several thousand dollars for it, and its current value is $5,000. He also has the mold of Tom Cruise’s teeth that was used for the movie’s vampire fangs. This is the room that I would have liked them to stay in for the whole episode, but I guess they have to appeal to a wider audience than just me!
The last segment focuses on Lisnek’s impressive collection of political memorabilia. He literally has Abe Lincoln’s short hairs! In addition to Lincoln’s hair, he has clippings from George and Martha Washington and John F. Kennedy — that’s a lot of presidential DNA in one room! He also has an early letter written by Lincoln before he became president.
Kate Martin, the appraiser accompanying Whelchel, is impressed with Lisnek’s collection, but she delivers an underwhelming estimate of $100,000 for the entire collection. This seems to be a pretty low price since some of the items they featured were worth over $25k by themselves, and there is a whole house full of items that they didn’t even get to see.
After delivering the lowball estimate, Martin offers to trade a John Hancock signed document, for one of Lisnek’s prized possessions–the Lincoln Letter. The Hancock signature is a prize that any political collector would want, and while Lisnek is tempted, he decides to keep the Lincoln letter.
For me, the most enjoyable aspect of watching shows about collectors is being able to take a peek behind the curtain and see how people live with their collections, and how they display their prized pieces. Lisnek has spared no expense in acquiring his collection, and has put forth the same amount of effort towards its display and preservation. Many of his frames and displays probably cost more than the items they hold, and it is wonderful to see! I’ve always believed that even a collection of bellybutton lint and toenails can look good if it is displayed like a museum exhibit. Lisnek’s house truly is a museum and it was a pleasure to stroll through his rooms during this show.
This was the premiere episode of the show, and with it came a few hiccups. An especially problematic aspect of watching the show live was the annoyingly loud music running through the whole show. It sounded like various theme songs from the 50’s were being run throughout the entire show, almost drowning out the dialogue. When I rewatched the episode online, that music seemed to have been removed, so I guess I wasn’t the only one it bothered.
For whatever reason MeTV is not broadcast in high definition by Verizon here in DC. I’m not sure if it’s like that for everyone, but watching a show in low resolution is like watching a Youtube video filmed in the early 90’s. The show has a dated feel to it, due to its nostalgic topic, but this presentation made it feel like I was watching an old rerun, not a brand new show.
The premise of the show is pretty much just a half-hour show-and-tell. It’s hard for me not to compare it to the Travel Channel’s (much missed) Toy Hunter, since the subject matter is fairly the same. The show made me miss the snappy editing and narrating of Jordan Hembrough’s show. Collector’s Call seems dated already, but that might be intentional, as it is trying to appeal to the older demographic of MeTV viewers, who watch the channel for its reruns of shows from the 50’s and 60’s.
Whelchel is a shining beam of joy and was a great selection to be the host. I remember watching her appearance on Survivor and thinking that she seemed so kind-hearted and friendly. All that charm is still present on this show even though she doesn’t have a whole lot to do other than to ask “where did you get it” and “how much is it worth?” — but she does it well! (Okay, I’ll admit I had a huge Blair crush in my youth.) Hopefully, her role will expand a bit more in future episodes.
Overall, the show was enjoyable and I look forward to seeing more episodes. I know some of the subject matter in upcoming shows will cover a wide range of subjects, such as Winnie the Pooh, so I’m not sure how that is going to appeal to the audience. I know I’ll be watching, because I’ll watch anything featuring passionate collectors, but I have feeling it might be difficult to retain a regular audience, without a more defined focus. I’m always excited for new shows about collecting, and I hope that this one sticks around for a good long while!