Watching: Space Dealers

*Perhaps obvious, but spoilers below. Because I’m that guy who *hates* spoilers, I’ve tried to keep deliberately vague in case this is the kind of show you don’t want to know what happens in, but obviously, some cats may be peeking out of some bags here.

The good-lady-doctor-her-indoors is late home from work and I have needs. They are snacks and Netflix based. I’ve watched a chilling documentary about awfulness, kidnapping children and that sort of horror, now I need something uplifting. What could be more uplifting than space? Exactly. Space. So, what’s this? I uncover, using only the medium of looking at my screen and clicking the third thing my eyes fall on, what appears to be storage wars or pawn stars or something… BUT IN SPACE!

Wait, no it’s not, that would be ridiculous. OK, so it’s one of those programs where people do their jobs but spend half the time driving around and/or talking to camera, and this one is about people who trade in space memorabilia. That’s up my street. OK. Play.

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If you’ve watched any American Reality TV of this sort in the last 10 years or so, then you’ll know the format already. It basically flits as rapidly and confusingly as possible between the three protagonists, who are going about their business buying and selling bits of old space stuff. It’s immediately compelling, because, while the stars of these programs are often somewhat eccentric, bloody hell these three are really fully batshi terrific value. In Torie’s opening ‘bit’, she visits a friend who runs a space museum and proceeds to vigorously poke, rub and stroke absolutely every artefact within range.

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Torie is there to sell something, immediately makes the deal, then just as quickly starts eyeing up what she can spend it on without leaving the museum. She spots something, tells the seller “THIS, I GOTTA HAVE”. Sensing that he has a quick way to get his money back with more on top, they strike a complex deal that involves her going off to find something else he wants as well, and then using it as part exchange for the thing he is pretending he doesn’t want to sell. This very much becomes a theme.

Cole is next to be found, at a Hollywood JEN-U-INE space-props emporium, where he gets very excited about a big booster thing (fair enough). “I have to have this! How much?” “1.5 million dollars” “Wow! That’s only 6 dollars for every mile it travelled to the moon! Not so bad!”. He declines to purchase it on this occasion. Probably best. The point here, clearly, is that space junk means big numbers. Really big numbers. He immediately finds something else he wants that isn’t 1.5 million bucks, but how much is it? The conversation goes something like this (paraphrased),
“I absolutely have to have this and will pay anything you ask, even though I literally buy and sell things for a living, that’s how these conversations definitely work”
“$20,000”
“$20,000? Aww, come on”  [to camera “I can’t spend 20 grand on this, I need to find an angle”
[cut back to Torie doing something else to confuse us for a minute]
[cut back to Cole and seller again]
“ok, I maybe need this other thing you could get me, if you can get that maybe we can do a deal on the 20 grand thing”
“ok!”

Sound familiar?

So then he calls some space friends from the car, and finds someone who has the thing, but doesn’t want to sell it, leading to my new favourite line in the 20 mins of this episode that’s gone so far,

“Did he just say he’s not interested in money? THAT IS UNAMERICAN”

Now, it’s time to move on to Larry. Larry is the self proclaimed “best”. He’s on the road, and he gets an unexpected* call from a European buyer, who wants a specific item. We cut to a little explanation of what the item is (more on this later), which is lovely. Back to the call. “That’s going to take me a little time, how many weeks do I have?” “three days” “THREE DAYS!?” [rough cut to car pulling away from traffic lights, screeching tyres and all]. It’s at this point I find myself double checking the show runner isn’t Armando Iannucci or Ricky Gervais or something. We eventually catch up with Larry, who tells us that the caller has “..come to the right guy. If anyone can find this item…”

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He seems pretty sure. So he, uh, for some reason drives to a hotel to sit in reception and ring round some of his space junk chums. He finds a chap who has the thing, goes round his house, immediately starts prodding fragile space things, decides he wants some of the things, embarks in some classic TV negotiating “I’ll give you a grand” “come onnnnn, 4 grand” “2!” “3” etc. Eventually he buys all the things.

Back to Cole. He’s found someone who has the thing he needs to get in order to buy the other thing, but doesn’t want to sell it, but might sell it if he can find him this other thing that they want. So now I’m either watching Wheeler Dealers or Inception, possibly both.

Back to Torie, she’s gone round someone’s house and it’s basically the Priest off Father Ted with all the Nazi memorabilia, only it’s Russian Space memorabilia. He answers the door in what I assume is Russian military uniform, and then she rattles around his garage poking and prodding things and wanting to buy all of them.

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Every time a new space item is mentioned you get a light but informative piece telling you about non-famous space missions and events, and it’s all weirdly charming.

Now back to Larry! Chap who’s house he’s in has MOAR things he definitely wants to buy, so he pulls out some serious negotiating skills.

“I’ve got to have it!”

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I’m starting to realise how it is that some people think Donald Trump is a great deal maker.

Now Cole is round some bloke’s house in Las Vegas. “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, but he’s gambling on coming home with whatever the third thing in the chain of things he has to get in order to get that other thing. This bloke’s house is next level.

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Fair play to the fella, he’s got Liberace’s piano and a full size dinosaur skeleton thing as well as a ton of cool space junk. Oh, and an Apollo command module in his garden. Well played.

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Hands up if you saw that coming?

Now we’re back to Larry again who (spoiler) has FOUND THE THING! The guy doesn’t want to sell it, but Larry suggests a price. While the owner is mulling it over, Larry increases his offer, chap seems surprised and is obviously considering it, and then Larry just starts shouting numbers at this point, increasing his bid frantically in a frenzy of unnecessary panic spending while the bloke is just staring at him with little dollar signs clearly visible in his eyes. Eventually Larry slows down long enough to allow the poor bloke to speak. “Now, you’re getting… close” says the man who isn’t the awesome experienced space-trader. So Larry increases his offer by twice the previous increments without further prompting, and selling dude decides he needs to quickly shake his hand before Larry realises what he’s saying. Ah, the art of the deal.

I’ll stop here, we’re about half way in to the first episode, and as far as I’m concerned, this is bloody GOLD. It’s the worst/best/funniest thing I’ve watched in ages. The impossibly complicated chains of buying items to get other items to get other items to get initial items which they only vaguely wanted on a whim anyway is amazing. I’ve condensed the flow a bit above, it flits from person to person faster than I don’t know what. The enthusiasm they have for it all is catching, in an American sort of way, and there’s a lovely moment about 37 minutes in to the first episode when one of them goes all gooey and it’s just nice and wholesome and, yes. Nice.

I am so here, for professional buying and selling types turning up to people’s houses and saying “I NEED THIS THING AND YOU’RE THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO HAS IT AND I NEED YOU TO TAKE AS MUCH MONEY FROM ME AS POSSIBLE” while the general space-stuff owning public rub their hands with glee and play super trading hardball like absolute pros. Also space stuff is cool.

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Not my words, Carol…
**Update/Kinda Spoilers: In episode two, Larry confirms all your suspicions that he’s probably an old white dude misogynist and spends most of the episode calling his wife the boss while growling about the fact she occasionally points out he is in business to make money and not to completely fill the house with space-shit. Meanwhile two of our characters actually barter with each other, creating an infinite loop of bad dealing, which fortunately manages to avoid spiralling in to them both owing each other the entire wealth of the western world, because one of them is already skint.