The Keno brothers seem pretty unflappable.
The twin "Antiques Roadshow" veterans talked right through Tuesday's 5.9 earthquake as they told us about their new Fox series, "Buried Treasure," from the network's New York offices. They made no mention of the rocking all around them — probably because there weren't any valuables around.
The ITV Studios America show, which premieres Wednesday night, features 54-year-old Leigh and Leslie visiting people's homes to assess their possessions. Occasionally they get to coolly break the news that an old cabinet could pay off the mortgage.
Given their convivality, we shouldn't have been surprised by their laid-back solution to our journalistic conundrum over how to tell their voices apart on the phone – and how to attribute their quotes.
"Doesn't matter, just kind of split them up 50/50," said Leigh.
We did our best to be more careful than that as we talked to them about the move from PBS to Fox, bailing families out of financial crises, and how often they disagree.
I think you're the first PBS stars to become Fox stars. Will this show have to go broader than "Antiques Roadshow" to appeal to a bigger audience?
Leigh: Well, first of all, I want to say we're not necessarily stars. We're two guys that love art, love antiques, and love treasure hunting. Stars is pushing it.
Les: What makes "Buried Treasure" different is we're on a treasure hunt and we're in the living space of the owner. The chair's not brought to us, or the piece of porcelain. It's either at the dining room table or in the basement. They've been using it. And also you get to meet the rest of the family. … You get really involved in the family emotionally. When it's time to appraise the piece we're right there in their home. To give that good news and see the tears come down their face is just so, so special.
Leigh: It's really a treasure hunting show with a heart.
When you visit homes, how often do you find something of some value?
Les: In about nine of out 10 cases I would say we get a winner.
Leigh: What we're doing is teaching about material culture, history, objects, and putting them in context, sometimes. Because these are a lot of times heirlooms. We're teaching about how they were made, what their function was. How do you authenticate a piece? How do you authenticate a 2,000-year-old bronze bowl? We bring a CSI laboratory right to the home.
On some reality shows, like "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," we meet a lot of people in bad financial straits. Is this a show where they save themselves through their items?
Leigh: They want to know the value of their items so that they can sell to get money to help their financial situation. Many people are in very dire need of money. One lady we visited called recently to say they just turned off my electricity. Of course it's going to be back on soon, because we helped them out.
Les: They are just about falling off a cliff and they've got that hand reaching up, and we're grabbing their hand by finding a treasure hidden in their house that they never knew they had. We had a situation where there was a piece that was literally right there in their living room and they thought it was worth hardly anything and it turns out it's going to pay for one of their son's medical school.
How often do the two of you completely disagree on a piece?
Les: We did have a case where I thought an Egyptian sculpture was definitely original and made in the BC, from a tomb, an Egyptian tomb.
Leigh: I thought it was a 19th century copy because it had some over-painting that made it look fresher. In another case there was a bowl… a grease bowl, and Leslie was looking at it saying, what are you looking at that for? … And we had the world's top expert say that is not only a great piece, I know who made that. It was worth $5,000, the same value as the Egyptian piece.