Monday, 2 June 2014

Possibly the most pointless show ever

Mr Reloved reviews French Collection, Channel 4’s newest upcycling show 


The premise is a familiar one. Three amateur enthusiasts buy things, then try to sell them at a profit. So far, so Bargain Hunt, but Channel 4’s new daytime series, French Collection, offers a twist: the buyers buy in France and sell in the UK. That’s a TV series right there.

Guided by dealer Mark Franks, the three keen contestants are given £800 to spend at a French flea market, with the aim of upcycling the items and selling them at a profit back in Blighty. The contestant who makes the biggest profit keeps everyone’s winnings.

French Collection presenter Mark Franks


The first thing to strike you is just how expensive the flea markets are. Sure, there’s the occasional bargain, but by and large they are charging well over the odds for items you could pick up at British antiques fairs or auctions for far less money. In fact, any items the contestants fail to sell are taken to an unspecified British auction, where they always make a massive loss on the price paid for them.

Most times, the contestants do make a profit, but only a couple of hundred quid, which, in the real world, would instantly be swallowed up by the cost of getting to, staying in and getting the furniture back from France. This is a cost never factored in to the game show element of the series.

Perhaps the biggest puzzle, though, is just how much the pro dealers back in the UK are prepared to pay for the items. Although they rarely cough up the ludicrous prices suggested by Franks and the contestants, they often pay far more than you would expect. So much that you can’t see where the profit is. One suspects they are doing it just to get their shop on TV. And who can blame them? Maybe we’d do the same.

Of course, some dealers tell it like it is and state outright that the pieces are terrible and they wouldn’t pay more than a tenner for them.

It’s not really the fault of the contestants – they’re all amateurs and are given just one day to upcycle their stuff. It’s almost impossible to paint a large piece of furniture to a high standard in just one day, even more so when you’re trying to do three of four pieces.

Hopefully, from our point of view as furniture painters, the viewers will see that there’s more to painting a chest of drawers than paying 200 euros for it, slapping on a single coat of paint and then taking it to a shop and expecting them to hand over £600.

Like the aforementioned Bargain Hunt, the premise is flawed. In Bargain Hunt, the contestants buy at antiques fairs (retail prices) and sell at auction (wholesale prices). In French Collection, they buy from market traders (retail prices) and sell back to dealers (at wholesale prices) but they also have to added travel and upcycling costs to factor in, which makes this possibly the most pointless show ever.


Still, we’ve watched every episode so far and it’s still on our series link, so it must be doing something right…

Interesting fact: French Collection is made by Reef, who were ditched by the BBC when it was discovered that they had used a crew member to pretend to be a member of the public on one of their other shows.