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'The Car Chasers' and 'Treasure Detectives': TV Reviews

The Car Chasers CNBC 2013 H
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The Bottom Line

Both series combine winning reality formulas and hinge on the thrill of hidden treasure.

Airdate

9 p.m. Tuesday, March 5 (CNBC)

CNBC launches into the world of reality TV with two entertaining shows that reflect the network's financial focus.

Financial channel CNBC has finally decided to get into the reality-TV business, because, at this point, it's a safe bet. But they did it right: Their first foray into docu-series actually happens to accurately reflect the purpose and focus of their network. Both of their new shows, The Car Chasers and Treasure Detectives, are at their core about buying low and selling high and the power of investment. They also both build upon tried-and-true reality formulas: The Car Chasers mixes the current obsession with pawn-shop shows and auction-related series, while The Treasure Detectives hits upon another smart combination: Antiques Roadshow meets CSI. And all of it circulates around the idea of hidden treasure (Gold Rush, anyone?)

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Treasure Detectives easily builds off of the broad appeal of the genre hits it combines by presenting weekly historical mysteries. Will the items brought to art detective Curtis Dowling and his staff be authentic or forgeries? The team puts the items through rigorous testing that pairs history with science. Of course, at the end of each mystery there is also someone anxiously waiting for either a triumphant or devastating result. Will that $1,200 Lalique hood ornament be worth $300,000 at auction and pay for your kids' college tuition? Or is it just a very expensive paperweight?

In the meantime, Dowling and his affable team engage in familiar and quippy banter with one another and explain in detail what they are looking for when they attempt to authenticate the pieces, naturally piquing viewer interest in the artists and time periods discussed.  And like Antiques Roadshow, it will also probably send viewers scuttling to the attic to dust off relics in search of potential treasure.

The Car Chasers capitalizes on its own element of treasure-hunting, though it is not quite as instantly appealing as Treasure Detectives. The series follows the owners and employees of the Flat 12 Gallery of Lubbock, Texas, who search for, fix and flip classic and exotic vehicles. As with Dowling's crew, there's genial banter among the principle cast, including Jeff Allen and his right-hand man Perry Barndt, as well as some of the same kinds of quirky family elements that have made shows like Duck Dynasty and American Chopper popular. Allen's father (known as "Roundman" -- "round body, square deals, though I've never gotten one," Allen says) owns his own vintage car shop right around the corner and says at one point of his son, "I needed someone foolish to buy this car, so I called him."

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But The Car Chasers know their stuff, as do the show's producers (David Leepson has a resume filled with other vehicularly-minded series, such as Car Warriors and Car Science). The show broaches the educational as it explains the context and backgrounds of the vehicles they are looking to flip, from '57 Chevys to '77 Trans Ams and the occasional Ferrari. ("This is identical to the one Magnum, P.I. drove!") And while budgets and repairs constantly form gloomy clouds over the business, the Flat 12 crew seems to take it in stride. In the end, The Car Chasers may not be a unique series, but it manages, like one of those '77 Trans Ams, to prove its worth.

CNBC has done an admirable job of adding more than just noise and volume to the reality scene, actually creating two pretty entertaining shows that both fit in with their other specific programming. As the network undoubtedly expands its slate of docu-series in the future, here's hoping they stick to the precedent they've set. For now, to quote Dowling, "Crack on."