The History Channel is preparing to debut a new reality show this fall — and it will be about storage. The show, called Storage Wars, will focus on what happens to the contents of a storage unit if it is abandoned by its owners. It is being developed by Thom Beers, who previously produced reality shows Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers. Beers hopes that Storage Wars will follow in the footsteps of other hit new reality tv shows, like Antiques Roadshow, American Pickers, and Pawn Stars.
Yesterday, the show’s cast and crew arrived at Safeguard Self Storage in Victorville, California, where 25 units had been abandoned by the tenants who originally rented them. The crew filmed the process of opening the units to see what was inside, as Safeguard’s manager, Sean Hofmans, dramatically cut the locks off the units. “I cut the locks off in front of everybody,” Hofmans explained in yesterday’s Victorville Daily Press. “It becomes a surprise what’s in it.”
Surprise seems to be the element that makes a reality show succeed. The idea behind Storage Wars is that every abandoned unit has its own story — and the contents of the unit may tell that story. In some cases, the contents of the unit, bought at an auction by people hoping to resell the items in secondhand stores and at garage sales, can turn out to contain a treasure that may have long ago been forgotten about.
The other element of the show that makes it so compelling in a recession is the back story, of people finding creative ways to supplement their income after losing a job, or when the income from a 40-hour per week job is not enough to support a family. The host of HGTV’s Cash in the Attic (a similar show which is currently on hiatus), John Sencio, noted how the recession had affected viewership of his show. “Before the recession, it was about families raising money for luxury items like hot tubs,” he said in USA Today last February “But that morphed into something more practical — like raising money for a new stove.”
The History Channel has already had some success with related reality shows, such as American Pickers and Pawn Stars. Those shows, which feature people who are down on their luck and looking for ways to make a little money, get more than four and a half million viewers every week. Originally based on PBS’ hit series, Antiques Roadshow, both are among the top 10 most-watched shows in cable television.
“Not all of us are going to hit the lottery, but all of us have something laying around the house,” commented media analyst Shari Anne Brill in USA Today this February. “The beauty of these shows is they can help you assess if the junk you have is actually worth something.”