Television Review: ‘Storage Wars: New York’ on A&E

January 1st, 2013

I moved into my current apartment in November 2001, on the heels of the Sept. 11 attacks, boxing everything up for a move away from downtown Manhattan to an equally spacious but less forgivingly laid out place uptown. As part of the move I exiled some things to a storage outfit in Nassau County, N.Y., and there the pile rested, a ghost whose existence was proved only by the monthly checks I’ve written ever since.

I never visited the space and long ago forgot what was there. I was never nervous about that situation, though, until the premiere of “Storage Wars” in 2010. Here was an entire cottage industry built upon detritus much like mine, left behind and — when unpaid for — gobbled up by voracious prospectors who would swoop in, buy it for a steal, then reap huge profits.

I began to panic a little. Maybe my storage company was counting on my evident indifference, cashing my checks Snidely Whiplash style, knowing that behind the padlocked door of my unit, there was only air, because my things had long ago ended up in the hands of someone like the stars of “Storage Wars: New York,” which has its premiere with a pair of episodes Tuesday night.

The original “Storage Wars” is a marvel of casting, not action. What little happens on the show — bidding on lockers, disinterring things from lockers, establishing value for things in lockers — is enlivened by the characters. Dave Hester is a mean, free-spending mogul; Barry Weiss, a charismatic, eccentric collector who drives restored vintage cars; Darrell Sheets, a lumbering goof; and Jarrod Schulz and Brandi Passante, a brash-but-loving young couple.

Many of those archetypes spill over to the New York spinoff, which gives it a reassuring patina. The macher figure is Joe Pauletich, who goes by Joe P and comes off as a well-aged hippie with a vicious tactician streak. He is likely to do battle with the mouthy Mike Braiotta, who in the premiere chugs Pepto-Bismol from the bottle and jaws more than he bids. The other buyers are two dippy vintage-clothing enthusiasts, Candy Olsen and Courtney Wagner, and the owners of the Frayed Knot, a vintage-furniture store in Hoboken, N.J., Chris Morelli and Tad Eaton.

They all convene on a Moishe’s Self Storage in Brooklyn, but what happens inside is pretty negligible. Instead, stay for the archetypes. The quiet killer Joe P establishes order, Mr. Braiotta brings acidity, and the others behave less like auction participants than like people who are aware that they’re starring in a show about auction participants.

(Given Mr. Hester’s recent lawsuit against A&E asserting that much of the original “Storage Wars” is staged, there may be some truth to this.)

Still, the show is better cast than the Texas edition, which arrived last year and remains catastrophically low-stakes and dull. (Let us not speak of “Shipping Wars” or “Barter Kings,” charmless de facto sister shows that rely on the perceived value of arbitrary items.)

With the arrival of “Storage Wars: New York” nigh, a reckoning with my storage unit was due. After an onerous, traffic-heavy midday drive out through Queens one recent afternoon, I arrived at the warehouse a few minutes before closing time. The woman at the front desk looked surprised to see me, or anyone, come through the door. What was she hiding?

A worker took me to the back, where rows of units fanned out in a climate-controlled space. I opened the lock, and there it was: a meager, sad clump of about 10 sealed boxes that from their weight I’m guessing contain magazines or CDs and one piece of furniture, a library-style wooden magazine rack I’d inherited from a friend and at one point envisioned as the centerpiece of an office or foyer, even though, in my old apartment, it had served as a makeshift barrier splitting my living room into play and work spaces. Five minutes later I locked up and left, resting easy with the knowledge that the only fool paying for my things is me.

“Storage Wars: New York”

A&E, Tuesday nights at 10 and 10:30, Eastern and Pacific times; 9 and 9:30, Central time. Produced by Original Productions for A&E Network. Thom Beers, Philip David Segal and Jeff Conroy, executive producers; Dolph Scott, co-executive producer.

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