'The Barter Kings' on A&E doesn't give the whole story

Bartering partners Steve, right, and Antonio, left, star

Bartering partners Steve, right, and Antonio, left, star in the new A&E series “Barter Kings” (Credit: A&E )

THE SHOW "Barter Kings"

WHEN | WHERE Tuesday at 9 p.m. on A&E

WHAT IT'S ABOUT On the edge of the Mojave Desert live two thrifty dudes you will henceforth know as "the barter kings" -- Antonio "The Shark" Palazzola of Apple Valley, Calif., and Steve "Nice Guy" McHugh of nearby Hesperia. Friends for years, they now barter for fun and a living, and, of course, this new reality series.

The secret of their success: Start with something small and cheap and end up with something big and expensive. Their craft is trading up, or exchanging one item for something better, and so on. Tonight, Steve ends up with a boat and Tony, a flatbed. I forget what they started out with, but then so do they.

MY SAY Bartering amounts to a $12-billion-a-year industry -- a stat supplied by the International Reciprocal Trade Association and mentioned at the outset of "Barter Kings." But how anyone ever arrived at that lofty figure must, for now, remain a mystery. These two barter barons never carry cash, and appear to assign monetary value to something only if it's more valuable than the piece of junk they just off-loaded. They move relentlessly forward, in a crazy-quilt pattern, in pursuit of the next best thing -- even if the next thing doesn't appear to have much intrinsic value to anyone (a huge safe? an old speaker?)

Remarkably, they always seem to find some sucker . . . er, an eager, like-minded soul eager to get rid of some albatross sitting in the garage. The pursuit is an entertaining one, although you may start to wonder if there's an easier way for them to get from point A to point Z. These guys, after all, do an awful lot of haggling, consume an awful lot of gas, and never even bother to mention the least appealing fact of all: Barter is taxable.

BOTTOM LINE A not-bad unscripted series with a pair of made-for-TV protagonists, but you may be left with the nagging sense that you're not getting the whole story, and maybe not even the whole first sentence of that story.

GRADE B

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