TV Review: Oddities

Oddities is a candid reality TV show about an antique and oddities shop in downtown New York City. Every episode, clients come in to buy, sell, and order strange things. One episode saw an artist bring in her original toenail sculptures cast in resin; another person put in a special request for a budget mortician's table for a photo shoot. The shop is run by Evan and Mike. They seem to have a rather simple business model. The show room is covered floor to ceiling with all sorts of antiques and oddities leading to a checkout counter. When someone walks in, they greet the customer by saying "just ask if you have any questions." Oddities suggests the customers always do. From there, they will describe the object in great historical detail and be open to bartering for a lower price or store credit.

The cast of the show is surprisingly strong. Evan has a great presence about her, finding the beauty and joy in even the most disturbing objects that cross through the store. Mike takes a bit more of a dry approach, joking with the customers about their objects in an attempt to subdue his excitement about the find. Their bone expert, Ryan, actually scares me a little, but I think it's because he's a similar breed of nerd. He's all wide vocabulary and a mouth that doesn't stop talking. The difference is his area of expertise is articulating animal skeletons (that's drilling holes through the bone, running wire through the holes, and staging the skeletons for display) and appraising bones. There are also regular customers who are just the right kind of strange to be entertaining and not off-putting.

If there is a flaw to the show, it is the formula that is used every episode. Certain events happen every week. A customer walks in with an odd request, so some combination of Evan, Mike, and Ryan have to track down the rarer oddity; they will make two stops, one successful, one not. Another customer walks in with something to sell that needs to be appraised to see the real value. And, more often than not, a returning customer comes in to expand their collection. It's a special episode if that returning customer is Amy Sedaris and/or Paul Dinello.

The difference from other shows that follow a similar formula is that Oddities manages to rise above the formula with interesting content. Where else are you going to see a girl trying on a Victorian medical corset or a sword swallower shop for and test out a new prop for her stage show? No where else on series TV, that's for sure. Even with the formula, the show doesn't feel staged. I don't have a hard time believing it's difficult to find a working piece of Victorian quack medical machinery or a complete unbleached human skeleton. It's not like you can pop on over to the local department store and grab a stuffed and staged three-toed sloth for a bartender's private collection, either. The production company has simply created a structure that allows the viewer to feel more comfortable with the stranger content.

If you have The Science Channel and are interested in bizarre collections, it's worth giving Oddities a try. It's creepy, funny, and charming, even when people are cradling a mummified hand from Egypt.