Do you have the body of a dead prostitute in your freezer?
A giant, extinct egg?
A witch-doctor’s dress?
If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes”, then the best thing would be to offload it for cash, so that local children will finally stop following you down the street shouting “Creepy shaman egg lady/man” and trying to set fire to your letter box. It is for these people that Four Rooms exists, as a chance to flog odd things – bought on eBay while incredibly drunk on sherry – to four top London dealers who are ensconced in separate rooms. Each dealer has the opportunity to bid on the things, until an offer is accepted. This is essentially the Antiques Roadshow combined with Dragons’ Den for people who are a bit broke.
So far, no one has tried to sell the body of a dead prostitute, but sinister (and almost definitely single) Edinburgh tour guide Robin comes close with a wallet made from the flayed skin of infamous mass-murderer William Burke. This is apparently not illegal because it’s historical. Unsurprisingly no one wants to pay Robin’s asking price of £50,000. Robin slinks off with his precious thing back to his bachelor pad in Edinburgh, where he no doubt also has loads of cool stuff he stole from graveyards.
This is in fact the best thing about the programme, when owners have an over-inflated view of what their curio is worth. The most memorable was last series when two guys brought in a wall with a Bansky on it. Yes, an entire wall. They had bought it for £10,000 in 2009 and dealer Jeff Salmon, whose “thing” is draping a fringed scarf across his shoulders, offered them £240,000. TWO HUNDRED AND FOURTY THOUSAND POUNDS! FOR A WALL! Naturally, the idiots say no and take away their giant crumbling wall that almost definitely costs them thousands of pounds a year to even store. There’s a one hundred percent chance that they still regret this extreme over-confidence when they can’t sleep in the dead of night and their wives have left them because they’re fed up of hearing about that bloody wall.
The majority of the sellers are terrible negotiators, either rushing in demanding thousands for horrible things that have been gathering dust in their attic since the death of their parents, or saying they’ll accept £500 for Van Gogh’s ear when the dealer would probably offer a thousand times that. The dealers know this, and sit back in their thrones like over-fed cats (with the exception of Celia Sawyer who looks like some sort of sexy aviator from the future) and wait for the cash cows to come wandering in. The only person who seemed remotely savvy was The Great Stromboli, a retired fire eater who was selling his giant Elephant Bird egg. I would expect nothing less from a retired showman, but he still failed to accept the best offer.
The format of the show requires sellers to visit each room in turn, and once they have left, the offer is off the table. Such is human nature that people often reject really good offers just because they want to see what is in the other rooms. Will it be a terrifying basilisk, or perhaps one of the Four Housemen of the Apocalypse? No of course not, it’s just flint-eyed dealer Andrew Lamberty poised to rip you off. You should have accepted Jeff Salmon you fool!
I watched most of the first series of Four Rooms, and it strikes me that the programme seems to heading the way of most Channel Four shows. What started as a mildly entertaining format featuring the odd weirdo is slowly progressing into a full on freak show (see also Come Dine with me). For example, next week we will see a man…sorry…. an artist attempting to sell a model of Auschwitz he claims he made from the gold fillings of holocaust victims. While I’m sure there is probably a market for that sort of thing somewhere, I doubt it is amongst the sort of people you would ever want to see with your actual eyes. I can only hope that a member of the production team checked the artist’s freezer for dead prostitutes before he was allowed on the programme.