Abandoned – New York Masonic Lodge: Review


Abandoned – New York Masonic Lodge
National Geographic
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 there’s certainly no doubting the artistry of US shows such as The Larry Sanders Show or The Wire, when it comes to something like Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, the term “polishing 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 “COMING 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 don’t 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 it’s 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 Jay’s motivation and come the end of the show, he’s made a decent profit. He’s also uncovered some fascinating items. But the way the show has been put together doesn’t 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. It’s as shame, as Jay is an endearing presenter, and he doesn’t 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-produced—sometimes 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.

It’s a horribly unfortunate situation, but at least Abandoned—as dressed up and as repetitive as it’s made to seem—is still, at the heart of it, very watchable.