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'Toy Hunter' review: Not much travel here

Jordan Hembrough is shown in this undated photo

Jordan Hembrough is shown in this undated photo in his storage space in Ridgewood, N.J. "Toy Hunter" premieres on the Travel Channel on August 15, 2012. Credit: AP Photo Elizabeth Fraser


WHEN | WHERE Premieres Wednesday night at 10 and 10:30 on Travel (moves to 9 p.m. next week)

REASON TO WATCH Get your childhood / pop-culture nostalgia fix.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Hollywood Heroes dealer Jordan Hembrough sniffs around collectors' troves from Ohio to North Carolina to Texas to California. But he starts Wednesday night in his home state of New Jersey.

That travel hook is, however, a bit ambiguous here, since most of the show's time is spent in basements and backyard sheds, rifling through drawers and bins crammed with consumer cravings gone gonzo. Movie and TV tie-ins are the big prizes, with Hembrough providing running history / trivia commentary for the culturally deprived. Among tonight's touchstones: Mr. Potato Head, Mr. Machine, Speak & Spell, "Mork & Mindy," "Welcome Back, Kotter" and the big kahuna -- "Star Wars."

One stop unearths a guy's mother lode of Colorforms vinyl-adhesive figures. There's also a Cher doll with "issues" among all the "loose toys," referring not to the diva's love life, but her lost-packaging status. Another collector has been "kitbashing," or taking parts from various kits to create toys where none have been manufactured, through techniques like the "boil and pop" to cadge a head from another figure.

Educational, no?

MY SAY If only it were more interesting. First, our trying-hard host finds this, then he finds that, is pretty much the way "Toy Hunter" takes shape in Wednesday night's first half-hour. And things seem surprisingly downscale for a national TV "expert" -- "Mork" Colorforms for $5 each? Hembrough doesn't even want Cher and her "issues," which include matted hair.

The premiere finally nabs an ultrarare Huffy Speeder Bike from "Return of the Jedi," which Hembrough lowballs the owner to buy, then turns around and sells for surprisingly little markup to a "Star Wars" collector for his kid. The 8-year-old makes the most sense of anyone when he assesses proud dad's shelf of still-packaged movie figures. "They're sitting there like a museum in a box. So what's the point of seeing them without playing with them?"

BOTTOM LINE So what's in your basement?


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