Abandoned – New York Masonic Lodge
Thursday 28th Feb at 9:30pm
Americans are masters of dressing up poor programming by dazzling viewers in the same way one might impress an infant by rattling car keys over its head. While thereâs certainly no doubting the artistry of US shows such as The Larry Sanders Show or The Wire, when it comes to something like Donald Trumpâs The Apprentice, the term âpolishing a turdâ? seems like almost too much of an understatement.
Such programmes are typically adorned with whooshing visual effects, big booming noises and the repeated promise that something is âCOMING UPâ?, often from a man who sounds as if he has to carry his testicles around in a wheelbarrow. Yet all of this is just a way of stretching very little content into something that seems almost impressive.
Perhaps the most unfortunate part, however, is that sometimes even good shows are given this unbearable treatment, as is the case with Abandoned, a series in which a team of men scour abandoned buildings looking for relics to fix up and sell.
A man called Jay Chaikin is the head of the team, and this week he and his buddies Dan and Mark are helping him look through an old masonic lodge in New York. But it soon transpires, minutes into the show, that the team know relatively little about masonry, apart from Jay, whose father and grandfather were both masons: he in fact knows a few things, but still not a lot.
It turns out that part of the fun is watching these three characters stumbling like stooges upon a trove of peculiar masonic artefacts, including some ornately carved chairs that were apparently once used for rituals. Unfortunately, we donât learn much more about the rituals, but Jay and company do unearth enough mysterious items to make a conspiracy theorist giddy with misplaced outrage.
Having been left untouched since the mid-90s, nowadays the lodge resembles the set of a horror film, so itâs easy to see why the team look so unsettled trawling the grounds. At one time, it must have looked magnificent. Now, though, one can imagine, in its dilapidated state, the building being used for more sinister practices.
Making money is ultimately Jayâs motivation and come the end of the show, heâs made a decent profit. Heâs also uncovered some fascinating items. But the way the show has been put together doesnât do the content justice. Often parts of the narration and footage are repeated, presumably in a perplexing attempt to keep viewers glued to their seats.
On the contrary, the effect makes an otherwise fun programme seem irritating and tedious. Itâs as shame, as Jay is an endearing presenter, and he doesnât need bizarre trickery to make him seem more interesting. Unfortunately Abandoned is like so many US programmes in as much as the show is based on a great idea that has been over-producedâsometimes to the point of incoherence. In Britain we currently seem have the opposite problem: our TV is littered with terrible ideas that have been fairly reasonably executed.
Itâs a horribly unfortunate situation, but at least Abandonedâas dressed up and as repetitive as itâs made to seemâis still, at the heart of it, very watchable.