by Ted S. McGregor Jr. & r & & r & Antiques Roadshow (Mondays at 8 pm, PBS)

History Detectives (Mondays at 9 pm, PBS)

?? & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & e are a nation of packrats, and when you combine that with our eternal sense of optimism, it's clear we all think very highly of our junk. But would an expert agree?

That's the premise behind Antiques Roadshow, one of PBS's most popular programs. They do take it on the road, and folks from all over the country haul out that stuff that's been passed down for generations -- or bought at a garage sale. (In fact, the Roadshow is coming to Spokane on Aug. 4; the episode will be broadcast sometime in 2008. The only tickets left come for a $300-per-pair donation to KSPS.)

Appraisers wander around and tell people if they have a treasure or a trinket. Since this is America, the punchline is always what the item is worth. Sure people cling to their nostalgia, but true validation comes in the form of a high dollar value. Watching the faces is fun, as you get lots of surprised looks, but just as many barely masked moments of disappointment.

But it's also amazing to listen to these appraisers do their analysis, tapping insane amounts of arcane knowledge. The result is often a fascinating trip through American history, dissecting everything from the subject matter of Grandma Moses' paintings to regional differences in furniture-making.

Sometimes it can be so interesting, you want more, and that's where History Detectives comes in. With its fifth season just started, this program takes a closer look at just three items, often suggested by viewers. The four detectives take your through their process, searching libraries, databases and talking to experts with titles like "Currency Specialist." It's like an archaeological dig into the recent past.

On a recent episode, they probed the provenance of a $6 bill from 1776. Turns out it was real, even though it had no actual value at the time it was printed (by none other than Ben Franklin). On another show, a rare portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, found in Grandpa's attic, was exposed as a forgery. The story of the clever counterfeiter made the segment more interesting than if it had been a real Stuart.

On Antiques Roadshow and History Detectives, our stuff does define who we are -- and who we were.


Big Brother 8

Yes, this middling show has survived to see an eighth season of squabbling housemates. If you still care, they lock the front door again tonight. (Thursday, July 5, 8 pm, CBS)

Tour de... England?

Doping scandals have hurt cycling, so the Tour de France is seeking fans with a "prologue" event in England. It'll all be captured live on VS., the new name of the Outdoor Life Network. Regular stages run from July 8-29 and are broadcast live early or in recap form in the evening. Some stages will be simulcast in HD, too. (Saturday, July 7, 6:30 am with a replay at 8 pm, VS.)

MLB All-Star Game

Barry Bonds' chase of the home run record is one of the great stories in baseball, but it has been muted because of speculation he doped up. I say 756 home runs is an amazing feat no matter what (although I hope he didn't do it), so I'm hoping he knocks one out. Bonds gets to start in his home park in San Francisco, so even if Fox's idiotic Tim McCarver bashes him, at least the crowds should show the love. (Tuesday, July 10, 5 pm, FOX)

Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 13
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About The Author

Ted S. McGregor Jr.

Ted S. McGregor, Jr. grew up in Spokane and attended Gonzaga Prep high school and the University of the Washington. While studying for his Master's in journalism at the University of Missouri, he completed a professional project on starting a weekly newspaper in Spokane. In 1993, he turned that project into reality...