Stay Tuned: 'Baggage Battles' will make you think twice
Edwin Starr got it wrong. War isn't good for absolutely nothing. Turns out, it's good for reality television titles. There's “Shipping Wars,” “Whale Wars,” “Storage Wars” (with an added Texas edition) and yes, even “Parking Wars.” The fighting continues over on the Travel Channel with the premiere of “Baggage Battles,” a show that follows the highs and lows of those who attend the international auction circuit for unclaimed luggage.
According to the show, 70,000 bags are lost per day in airports around the world. When this luggage goes unclaimed for 30 days, it is put up for auction along with jewelry and watches that have been placed in separate, clear plastic bags. The auctions are crowded. The bids are hundreds to thousands of dollars. But it's more than buy low, sell high. This show fascinates me for the simple reason that I don't get bored thinking: People put what in their bags?
“Baggage Battles,” despite the attempt at alliteration, is basically “Storage Wars” re-imagined to suit the programming needs of the Travel Channel. Instead of watching people try to outbid each other for abandoned storage units, you watch people try to outbid each other for unclaimed luggage.
In “Baggage Battles,” the featured players are Billy, a former advertising executive who resembles a silent movie villain, Mark and husband-and-wife team Laurence and Sally. Mark could easily be cast in the role of “pushy New Yorker” should he ever want to change careers. Laurence is British, a former aerospace engineer and a man who never met a pair of red or purple pants he didn't like. He wouldn't be out of place in a Rolling Stones cover band. His wife, Sally, is the voice of reason and the keeper of the money. Billy, Mark and Laurence and Sally travel the auction circuit hoping to discover that one perfect suitcase or bag of jewelry that will make them rich.
Like any show that features an auction, part of the appeal is the tension created by the fast-paced, back and forth rhythm of bidding. Once the winner is decided, the appeal is the anticipation of opening a sealed bag. It's a little like Christmas morning. Where “Baggage Battles” is most appealing however, is that it's almost impossible to watch it and not be continually surprised by what people pack in their checked baggage.
In the first two episodes, Billy finds a stash of rare coins hidden in the folds of someone's clothes, and Laurence and Sally discover a first-edition book worth thousands of dollars. Seeing the contents of a stranger's luggage is voyeuristic, but wondering why in the world they didn't wear that gold watch or diamond pendant instead of packing them is just entertaining. Who does that? More importantly, who does that and doesn't claim their bag? Maybe the real battle is between the anonymous luggage owner and their common sense.
Melissa Crawley credits her love of all things small screen to her parents, who never used the line, "Or no TV!" as a punishment. Her book, “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing,’” was published in 2006. She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.