Scary people for a scary world

#4: PAUL “What would you spend that money on?” MARTIN

Those of you who’ve been spending a fair bit of time indoors lately may well have noticed that daytime BBC is beginning to resemble an eerily sheeny branch of Cash Converters. People are encouraged to hunt down the ‘clutter’ (god bless the televisual lexicography for gifting Lorne Spicer and friends that one) in their houses and then sell it at auctions or similar selling-off-things. This has long been a minor British TV obsession, mainly through the not-entirely-in-it-for-the-money Antiques Roadshow which most people only watched so they could go “Ah, she was expecting more than that!” when the people who owned the antiques tried to express shock at the size of the valuation of their thingy. Now, however, we’re in it for the money, as Bargain Hunt, Cash In The Attic, Car Booty and, in the case of our subject here, Flog It! quickly confirm in their title sequences.

This uncomfortably mercenary attitude really is not helped by Mr Martin. He has a peculiarly creepy, eerie presence, that of a man who really wants you to say a lot of things but isn’t actually listening to any of them. He has the habit of leaping right on top of anything he can latch onto and agreeing with it – “So where are you going on holiday?” “North Wales -” “OhNorthWales! I love going there!” etc. -and that thing that these daytime presenters do, of hovering that bit too close, being that bit too intrusive, being on-screen way, way too much. He’s a great one for the arm around the shoulder. Then there’s the pretending to care in the human interest stories of the sellers, the shoe-horning of the stories onto the people. When the items go to auction he’s always right at the back of the hall with the seller and his expert valuer (who wears a suit – Paul, being a hip young presenting type, has hair like James May and a pastel coloured shirt with exactly two buttons undone), and the first thing he asks – “Now, if this were to meet its estimate, what would you do with the money?” He always seems to look away as they’re telling him this too. He may just be focusing on when the lot’s coming up, but just comes off as though he really couldn’t give a toss. The focus is always on how much it’ll make, how collectible is it, how much more would it be worth if…

And the really odd thing is Flog It! seems to be aware of this and feels a bit guilty about it. There are therefore brief historical bits about antiques and an ‘in-depth’ analysis of the qualities of the items. But this show is called Flog It!, and that’s something Martin has no trouble in doing, insincerity seemingly dripping from every pore as he congratulates or commiserates the seller afterwards, arm round the shoulder, “Isn’t that amazing?/Oh, that’s a shame” before congratulating/mock-haranguing the expert, then “Well, we’ve managed to make some dreams come true here today/Well, it’s a shame that we couldn’t make it happen, but have you enjoyed yourselves?”

It’s the token nods, though, that get me, the attempts to try and ‘educate’, the attempts by Martin to show that hey, he’s more than just a pretty face that’s eerily reminiscent of James May, he knows about antiques as well. It’s like McDonald’s pimping its salads and healthy food range. I bought one of their new low-fat chickeny things the other day. A man on the bus told me that it fucking stank. He had a point. 2/10