What is Mark Wahlberg doing when he’s not fighting Transformers or hanging out with a foul-mouthed walking, talking teddy bear? We have absolutely no clue, but we do know that Mark L. Walberg is serving as host of two reality shows, PBS’ long-running Antiques Roadshow and USA’s Temptation Island. As such, you simply can’t imagine two that are so diametrically opposed.
“Yeah,” laughs Mark, “they’re pretty much polar opposites. I can be cheesy and tell you that both are trying to assess value in something, right? The truth is, at this point in my career, I find myself occasionally speaking with young people trying to get into the business as hosts. I try to make the distinction that being a host is representing, when you’re doing it well, the most authentic version of yourself. So that’s how I can reconcile doing Antiques Roadshow and Temptation Island and not seeming hypocritical in that we all have a range of who we are in different situations, but that doesn’t mean we’re not the same person. So I really try to just do everything I can to be an authentic me in the situation that I’m provided and hope that the audience can discern the difference that, you know, we’re not just a 1-D version of ourselves. And, in fact, we’re a 3-D version and we all have lives that range as far as even these shows. So that’s what I always am trying to do, being the same guy you see on Antiques Roadshow or Temptation Island.”
PBS describes Antiques Roadshow as follows: “[It] puts the reality in reality television! Part adventure, part history lesson, and part treasure hunt. Veteran television personality Mark L. Walberg serves as series host. In each hour-long Roadshow episode, specialists from the country’s leading auction houses and independent dealers offer free appraisals of antiques and collectibles. Antiques Roadshow cameras capture tales of family heirlooms, flea market finds and items saved from attics and basements, while experts reveal the fascinating truths about these items.”
“This guilty pleasure,” offers Google of Temptation Island, “features four unmarried couples from across the United States who travel to an exotic locale to put their relationships to the ultimate test. Over this period, the couples get the opportunity to answer questions about themselves and one another, and to find out if what they think they want is actually what they do want.”
Both shows take a unique approach and are going for very different audiences, but Mark has come to understand the connection that audiences feel for each of them.
“When they asked me to host Antiques Roadshow,” he explains, “I was surprised, because I had hosted Temptation Island before and that surprise came from the range between those two shows. But the reason I’m grateful to be part of the show is that it’s a part of American culture and people love it. And I’m fascinated by the people who come to the show and their fascination to learn the truth about the items that they have. For me, Antiques Roadshow’s success lives on two levels. One is the American dream and hope that we have a life-changing item in our garage that we’re going to be able to turn it into money. You know, that we have something of value somewhere. But really I think why it connects us is that we all have a collective understanding of American and world history and art and science and things like that. But on Roadshow we see people who connect to those historical antiques; antiques with a personal, intimate connection to family members and how things have been passed down; how they acquire these items, and the story of what was going on in the historical time that this item brings us back to. So I really love the connection to family and the personal stories on Antiques Roadshow.
“Now when they asked me to do something like Temptation Island, that goes under the heading of shows that I’m happy to serve as the host of and having experiences I would never otherwise have as a human,” Mark continues. “I think that helps the show, because I always say that if I was the kind of host who, say, was a single guy out there in the world that was really wringing my hands together in delight at people’s misery is exploited, it really wouldn’t be so great. In other words, if I’m a proactive participant in trying to get them to hook up, the show just becomes smarmy and nothing I want to be a part of. But I’ve found that if I can say as my authentic self, ‘You guys are younger, you have questions, you are going into this fantasy in a fantasy situation, but I’m at a point that I know that often fantasy isn’t as good when it becomes a reality. So my take on Temptation Island is, ‘Let me help you through this process. Be careful what you wish for. The questions you want answers for I have for myself, and I know this may not be the smartest way to explore them, but since you’ve chosen to do that, let me help guide you through it.’”
In the early days of reality TV, a show like MTV’s The Real World, for instance, was an exploration of the sociological impact of putting seven strangers in a house to see how they interact. Today, though, many of these shows seem to be more about how quickly they can hook up.
Opines Mark, “That’s a little bit generational. I have this problem on a lot of shows where they meet and in episode two they’re, like, ‘I think I’m falling in love.’ Wait a minute. I don’t know if life works like that way,’ but then I have to back it off a little bit and inform it from my experience, which is that Temptation Island is where your phone is not there. There is no internet. You’re in this idyllic place. Your whole focus is the experience and you’re spending 24 hours a day with these new people. So if you really do the math, if you were to meet somebody in the real world and you kind of go on a date on Friday night, you talk on Saturday to get together maybe on Wednesday and you date again the next week. And so over the next six months you might have so many interactions, whereas on Temptation Island, by the end of the first day you’ve had about three months of dating interaction. I will concede that it steps up the timeline, but in doing so it is possible that feelings can grow that quickly. The best way for me to to explain that is if you’ve ever gone to summer camp or sleep away camp, you get there on one day and you fall in love on the next day, break up that night, you’re in love again the next day, and so on. And I know that’s a little childish, but there is some of that here.
“You’re in this suspended reality and you’re spending 24/7 with one another, so you go deep really quickly with no other distractions and I think that’s actually pretty legit. While some of it is TV, and certainly we stepped things up, I also could see that participants are aware that they’re on TV and if they don’t have some drama, they’re not going to get the camera time. But what I tell everybody on the show is no matter what your reasons are, and no matter what game you came here to play, I know from experience that the Temptation Island experience, as crazy as it sounds, becomes very real very quickly. If you have any legitimate feelings at all or any legitimate questions, this concept proves out over and over again to get real.”
Switching gears back to Antiques Roadshow, one of the great joys for him comes from watching the reaction from the people who discover that they actually do have something in their possession with value.
“I think everybody shows up with a realistic expectation, but in the back of their mind they’re hoping, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got the thing that I didn’t realize is really, really valuable!’ I love that draw, but I’ve found that the people that come to Antiques Roadshow are treating it like they’re visiting an old friend. You know, it’s PBS, so we own it. We the people own that. The show’s been around for a very long time and has been part of our television tapestry. So I’ve found that while people are excited to hear about their things, and some people do have an unreasonable expectation, most are showing up in the right head space of, ‘I just want to be part of something that I love.’ And, you know, ‘If it’s great news, great. And if it’s not, oh well.’ That’s the very healthy way our fans and viewers experience the show. And it’s just a joy.
“Antiques Roadshow fans come up to me in airports and start talking to me as though we’ve already been in a conversation for a long time,” he smiles. “There’s just this familiarity. To me, that is the ultimate barometer of whether or not I’m hitting my mark correctly.”
Season 23 of Antiques Roadshow will be premiering this season on PBS. The season finale of Temptation Island airs on USA on Tuesday, March 26.
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