comes to town, complete with weird treasures from the attic, fascinating family stories, and the touching human reactions of people who didn't know how good their lives were.
"You're not kidding," says the incredulous man, choking up, when an expert tells him that the painting his wife makes him stash in the basement is worth about $150,000.
A snowy-topped gentleman holds a porcelain plate. "It's been appraised," he says. "We found out that it is older than I am."
"But you're worth more," his wife lovingly replies, sending him into aw, shucks speechlessness.
Entering its 11th season, the PBS mainstay tonight begins a three-part installment from Philadelphia, shot last summer, when the entire region, it seems, rummaged through life's trappings and stood in line to ask a lineup of hot-shot appraisers if the most intriguing stuff was worth anything.
The shows air Mondays, through Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. on WHYY TV12. The Roadshow is one of TV12's most popular programs, also airing Fridays at 8 and Saturdays at noon, as well as Tuesdays at 2 p.m. on Comcast digital channel 242 and all the time on digital demand. Only a cranky critic would complain that public television could be slightly more useful if some of those slots went for more varied and enlightening fare.
Even if it weren't big-bucks, the painting would be one of tonight's highlights, as its owner talks gently about his mother, for whom it was painted. The canvas is inscribed, "To Horny," and signed "compliments" by the artist.
Appraiser Nan Chisholm tries to be diplomatic about the inscription. She is, after all, discussing the man's mother. "She would never talk about it," he says, acknowledging, "She was a very adventurous woman."
The get-rich-quick possibilities of the Roadshow (one woman's $200 auction buy is appraised at $35,000) are intriguing, but it is the family stories - there are many fascinating ones in the next three weeks - that make the show special.
Bye-Bye, Veronica. Mourn not, Veronica Mars fans. The plucky teen private eye is going away March 6, but she'll be back. The CW network (CW 57, in Philadelphia) premieres Pussycat Dolls Presents: The Search for the Next Doll that day, and it will run for eight consecutive weeks.
TV critics at their winter meeting in Pasadena, Calif., weren't exactly thrilled with the new show, which will feature rap bad girl Lil' Kim as a judge. One quoted his 16-year-old daughter: "Why should young girls aspire to dress up like skanks and sing, 'Don't you wish your boyfriend was hot like me?' "
CW boss Dawn Ostroff said Veronica would return May 1, and run five "closed-ended" episodes, installments whose plots stand alone, in contrast to the serialized fare that's characterized the series so far.
"I think it's really just a way more accessible to viewers," Ostroff said. Veronica is picking up in the ratings, but it will need to perform well at the start of that run to assure a pickup for a fourth season, the network chief implied.
So tell all your friends to watch.
"I don't want Veronica to end," said Mars star Kristen Bell, adding that she liked the change. "It will open doors for a lot of character development."
An actor who's as feisty as her character, and an accomplished musical performer, Bell said she would love to do a musical episode of the show, but her male cohorts are reluctant.
"It's always the boys," she groused. "I told them, 'I'll do your voices.' "
She constantly gives thanks for the show's small but rabid fan base. "They are so into the show. That's the best career you could ask for."
Tonight at 8, Jan. 29 at 8 p.m., Feb. 5 at 8 p.m., WHYY TV12.