“Strange Inheritance” host Jamie Colby visits a storage space full of comic books on an episode of the new Fox Business Network reality show.
When: 6 to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday
There’s the guy whose mother bequeathed him 5,000 dolls. The family who inherited a ginormous thermometer in one of the hottest parts of the California desert. The two out-of-work actors who inherited a spread in Illinois from a hermit farmer they’d never met.
Together they each fit nicely into the theme of “Strange Inheritance,” a new reality TV series on Fox Business Network in which host Jamie Colby travels around the country to meet with people who never in a million years expected to inherit bug collections, a herd of alligators or a tree stump shot up during the Civil War.
“Everybody at one time in their life inherits something,” says Colby, who joined Fox in 2003 after work at other networks and stations and before that as an entertainment attorney in Los Angeles. “Sometimes it’s the normal stuff, real estate or money or stamps.
“But what if you inherited something unique? What do I do? Do I keep it, do I share it? How do you divide up farmland or a coin collection?”
“Strange Inheritance,” which premiered on Fox Business on Jan. 26 with the biggest debut ratings the network has ever earned, explores those questions. It’s a bit like a cross between “Antiques Roadshow” and “American Pickers,” a mix of history and personal stories, a focus on topics such as love, loss and legacy.
“Someone loved you enough to leave it to you,” Colby says. “Someone loved you enough to think of you. And we explore that and also explore where it came from.”
The story of the hoarder and the two actors is typical of the unusual kinds of bequeaths Colby explores on the show.
Farmer Ray Fulk lived a hermit-like life in Lincoln, Ill., with no family and few close friends. In 1997, he went to a lawyer to update his will and leave nearly everything he owned, including his 165-acre farm, to Kevin Brophy and Peter Barton, his friends, he told the lawyer.
When Fulk died in 2012, the attorney wrote Barton and Brophy to tell them of the $1 million they’d been left together in the will, and nearly got ignored: Both men thought it was a joke, a reasonable conclusion given that they’d never met nor heard of Fulk. Turns out Fulk was a fan of the little-known actors’ work, including “Lucan,” a short-lived 1977 series in which Brophy played a young man raised by wolves, and “Hell Night,” a 1981 horror flick in which both had appeared.
“This benefactor had a fondness for them, and so the lawyer has to track them down,” Colby says. “And it comes at a time when they’re both down on their luck. One is battling an illness. It saves his life, at least that’s what he told me. The other one is taking care of his daughter, living in an RV in back of his dad’s house. It’s an upgrade.
“These two strangers come up with $500,000 each,” she says. “They give some of the money to the humane society in the community where the man lives, because they knew he loved dogs, and they shared some with other people, who were the right people, because they’d been there for the guy but he’d forgot to leave them anything.”
Colby traveled for eight months to at least 25 states to shoot the first season of “Strange Inheritance,” most often to small towns far off the beaten path. “Sometimes Siri didn’t even know where we were,” she says.
She said that even as an attorney the show taught her things about writing one’s will.
“I went back and did (an addition) to leave some things that would make life easier for … people who have been in my life who have given of themselves and their heart,” Colby says. “I would like them to know that I remember that.”
She says she also learned the importance of talking to the loved ones you plan to leave odd items to, so they know what you’d like done with them after you’re gone. It’s easy if its investments or property, not so much if it’s a collection of incredibly rare baseball cards or a 300-year-old Stradivarius cello, to mention a few other stories Colby reported for the show.
“Truly what makes this show unique are the people,” she says. “They weren’t cast like a reality show. It just started with the object and the families followed. And I was just blown away by … learning about them.”
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