History Channel's Abandoned TV Reality Show Review

Abandoned debuted over The History Channel on December 30, 2011. The TV reality series opener features a band of urban treasure hunters exploring the old Scranton Lace Company of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Abandoned is one of The History Channel's latest TV reality shows. Jay Chaikin, along with helpers Dan and Mark, explore abandoned properties in the United States, trying to make a dollar from the salvaged contents inside.

History Channel's Abandoned Debuts

Abandoned debuted over The History Channel on Friday, December 30, 2011. A promotional trailer for the series features the now-defunct Six Flags New Orleans, which on August 27, 2005, was closed down in preparation for Hurricane Katrina. Located in the Big Easy's 9th Ward, Six Flags New Orleans – "like an American Chernobyl" – was devastated by Katrina, never to reopen again. The only thing salvaged from the amusement park was Batman the Ride, hauled away by Six Flags Fiesta in Texas to play another day.  

The Abandoned TV trailer was distributed to various media outlets, including The History Channel, Discovery Network, CNBC and the BBC under various names. The show was titled Uncertain Future for CNBC and No Trespassing for the BBC.

Abandoned Pilot Episode

Abandoned's pilot episode takes place in historic Scranton, Pennsylvania. Jay Chaikin, along with his crew, have paid $1,500 to explore and selectively salvage the old, abandoned Scranton Lace Company. Established in 1890, the Scranton Lace Company (later the Scranton Lace Corporation) manufactured Nottingham Lace, tablecloths, napkins, shower curtains and the like. During World War II, the company partially shifted its focus, teaming up with Victory Parachutes and Sweeney Bros. to produce parachutes and camouflage netting for the American war effort. Scranton Lace came to an inglorious end in 2002 when the company's vice president duly informed workers – during mid-shift, no less – that the factory was shutting down, "effective immediately." It was perhaps one of the most extreme pink slip firings in American manufacturing history.

Located at 1315 Mylert Avenue, the Scranton Lace Company was once one of the area's largest employers. In January 2011, the Scranton City Council sounded the final death knell for the once-proud Scranton Lace, giving final approval to Lace Building Affiliates to redevelop the 32-building site.

Jay and his crew enter the abandoned factory for their one-time urban treasure hunt. The building is like an old, forgotten cemetery, unkempt, vacant and devoid of any human life. Among their discoveries is an old, rusted Modess tampon dispenser, a reminder that most of Scranton Lace's employees were women. They also encounter a number of old sewing machines, opting to leave them where they sit as past experience has taught them that they have little value.

At one time Scranton Lace housed a theater, bowling alley, gymnasium, infirmary and clock tower. Jay and his men explore the old bowling alley, tossing a few balls down its rotting wooden planks and knocking over a few pins for old time's sake. The clock tower houses a huge Meneely cast iron bell from the early 20th century. Jay believes the bell is worth at least $6,000, but it's hands off, as the old boy has been designated an historic Scranton landmark.

A mammoth loom used to produce lace on an industrial scale still stands in the factory. It was imported from Birmingham, England, in the early part of the 20th century, and along with the machine came English workers trained to run it. Jay remarks that the scrap value for the iron monster would run into the tens of thousands of dollars, but he's just not equipped to handle such a large salvage operation. "Unfortunately, I can't get it in my truck," he quips.

One of the more useful items salvaged by Jay and his crew are the factory's iron vault doors. Taking them home, Jay skillfully incorporates the doors into a handsome gun cabinet, which he hopes to sell for over $3,000. Included with the cabinet is a certificate of authenticity, detailing the history of the doors and their former home at the Scranton Lace Company.

Scranton Lace Company with visible clock tower in Scranton, Pennsylvania - Delta Development Group Inc.

Abandoned Has Treasure Hunting/Historical Appeal

Abandoned has great potential as a series. It appeals to both urban treasure hunting enthusiasts and history buffs. The number of abandoned buildings, factories, amusement parks, towns, et al., in the United States alone guarantees that producers would never run out of locales for our intrepid treasure hunters to explore and salvage.

The pilot episode of Abandoned was aired by The History Channel with the understanding that if ratings were high enough, additional segments would be ordered. At present, the show's status is unclear, with some fans lobbying The History Channel for Abandoned's return. We can only hope, however, that Abandoned, well, hasn't been "abandoned" itself, and unceremoniously relegated to the scrap heap of television history...

Note: Abandoned has found new life on the National Geographic Channel and makes its return – or premiere, however you want to look at it – on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. New episodes will follow...

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

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