‘Market Warriors’ loses spunk with Fred Willard’s firing

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Boston public television station WGBH recently dismissed Fred Willard from his narrator role on "Market Warriors" after he was arrested in an adult movie theater for allegedly committing a lewd act. Although the 72-year-old maintains his innocence and promises to expose the true story, Mark L. Walberg from "Antiques Roadshow" re-narrated the four existing episodes.

"Market Warriors" overview

"Market Warriors," a spinoff of "Antiques Roadshow," is an hour-long competition series. Four resident antiques pickers scour flea markets and sales across America to find hidden treasures. They enjoy a playful rivalry and share professional tidbits about the featured items.

Given specific guidelines and a wad of cash, they haggle with sellers to find the best deals. Later, they send their treasures to auction and anxiously watch the bidders in hopes of earning the largest profit. The show's vibe is similar to cable hits like "Storage Wars" and "American Pickers."

The pickers

Like the castaways on "Gilligan's Island," each picker represents a particular archetype. For the most part, the nicknames are their downfall as they stick to their narrow roles and behave as though they are on a personal shopping trip.

Miller "The Assessor" Gaffney is the pickers' version of "The Simple Life" star Paris Hilton. She is sassy, whiny, and seemingly clueless despite her extensive resume. She ostentatiously compares prices online. By spending so much time researching in front of the dealers, she tips her hand and leaves little room for negotiation. She is a wildcard when it comes to auction.

Kevin "The Prowler" Bruneau hunts for hidden treasure and lets the resale possibilities drive his decisions. His tough negotiation tactics make it hard to celebrate his finds instead of empathizing with the dealers caught in a tight spot on camera. He is a steady performer and the one to beat at auction.

John "The Professor" Bruno is a zany, knowledgeable fellow who tends to go for the eclectic items without considering the limitations of the auction. He is easily the most entertaining shopper as he chats with everyone and finds one-of-a-kind items. His selections fall into a particular niche and tend to be hit or miss at auction.

Bob "The Designer" Richter often lets his interior designer sensibilities dictate his purchases. Instead of asking questions as a collector would, he falls in love a design element or has a creative vision. His outfits are interesting and he is one of the more frantic shoppers, but he is also a wildcard at auction.

Willard's narration

The gifted comic actor's familiar voice and taunting zingers added life to "Market Warriors." In the first episode, which is conspicuously absent from PBS.org, Willard razzed the pickers and pointed out Miller's gaffes as she blew her negotiating edge. He maintained the show's rhythm and added a quirky element.

Walberg's narration of the second episode followed the same format, but lacked the distinctive zeal that helped make "Market Warriors" fun and lively. The new narration is too similar to "Antiques Roadshow." The subtle jokes fail without the benefit of an experienced comic.

Viewer feedback

Based on viewer comments on PBS.org, "Market Warriors" is too much of a tiresome reality show for diehard fans of "Antiques Roadshow." Others are unhappy with the performance of the so-called experts. The auction portion, which should be a highlight, is rather anticlimactic as disinterested bidders often look on with boredom and the pickers take a substantial loss. Despite harsh criticism of the show, fans are showing support for Willard.

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