Remember When There Weren’t Any House Shows?

Every Saturday morning, instead of going to synagogue like the Torah commands, I sit in my living room and watch my wife watching what I’ve come to call “house shows.”  You know what I’m talking about.  Shows where people decorate houses, renovate houses, buy houses, sell houses.  Shows where contractors troll the parking lots of Home Depot and Lowe’s, looking for the unsuspecting owners of living rooms and yards in desperate need of television crews.

The first house show that I remember was called This Old House, hosted by Bob Vila and his flannel shirt.  At the end of the show would be an old residence, beautifully restored, like a Victorian or Neanderthal cave.  I don’t know how the show began because the only reason I went to that channel was to watch Gummi Bears, and This Old House came on right before it, and in my haste I sometimes went to the channel before This Old House had ended.  And as Bob Vila sat back on the stained porch he had just added to a Sumerian mud hut, I would say to myself, “How could someone stand to watch a show like this?”

Fast-forward about fifteen years, and pretty much the only kind of show we watch in my house is a show like that.

I never understood the interest in these house shows.  A show put together by professional contractors and designers.  People that know how to knock down walls, pour concrete, and install plumbing.  People that can rearrange entire homes in their minds.  People that can draw a straight line.  Homeowners, living in ordinary homes, with ordinary husbands who would rather be writing blogs than hammering nails, watch these shows and wonder why their homes don’t look like the homes on television.

Because the houses on these shows are far from ordinary.  Kitchens with a backsplash made of tile reclaimed from a Pompeian mosaic dug out from two tons of igneous rock.  New living room floors from hard wood reclaimed from that house that got swallowed up in Poltergeist.  The only thing that isn’t reclaimed is my use of the remote control.

And the shows all have catchy names.  One show that’s been getting a lot of playing time is called Property Brothers, where one brother is a real estate agent who shows the homeowners a few houses they like, and then leads them to a house they can afford, and the other brother helps stays up all night renovating it to look like the houses they liked.

I think a better show would be called Property Spouses.  The home would be already bought, and it would be husband/wife team that would help decorate it.  The husband would put in a leather couch and large television, and the wife would come in afterwards, replace the couch with a fabric chaise lounge and the television with a baby, and make the husband redecorate the garbage right out the kitchen.

Another show that gets a lot of playing time is called House Hunters.  Here is a typical episode.  A young couple puts on camouflage and grabs their rifles and heads out into the woods.  A small cape cod, three bedroom, two bath, leans over a brook and takes a cool drink.  The man is slow to unshoulder his rifle, but his wife is quick, sets her sight, and fires.  Her aim is true, but the house heard the husband’s Droid beeping and turned, catching the wife’s round in the chimney.  Panicked, the cape cod runs through the woods leaving a trickle of blood running down the outdated — but in good condition — vinyl siding.  The wife and her husband set in pursuit.  She gets off a few more rounds, but it turns out the home is a short sale, and the bank holds on to it until long after rigor mortis has set in.

But the house show that has become my favorite is probably DIY Disaster.  In each episode, a pair of homeowners have an unfinished project, so they bring in a professional contractor to finish the project while the homeowners stand around drinking coffee.   In one episode, a man had attempted to fill an inground swimming pool in the middle of the couple’s living room.  But halfway through the project, he had gone insane from too many viewings of that “discount double-check” commercial with Aaron Rodgers, and was committed to an asylum with the pool only halfway dug out.  Further complicating the situation was that to save time he had started filling the pool up with water as he worked, so that the halfway dug out pool was halfway filled with water, and the standing water had become home to many bugs and aquatic life.

Luckily, the host of the show arrived on the scene and was able to finish the project, using the aquatic life as independent contractors.  The sea otters turned out to be natural talents, and were used in subsequent episodes, until a labor organizer got hold of them and had them balancing picket signs on their noses.

16 thoughts on “Remember When There Weren’t Any House Shows?

  1. Lol. How funny. I particularly like House Hunters.

    I think young couples, as part of preparation for marriage, should have to remodel a room together, doing the work themselves. If their relationship can survive that, they are solid and get a marriage license.

    In all honesty, I love the Nate Berkus Show. I was afraid of putting color in a room until he got a hold of me. 🙂

    1. Now that, Piper, would make a funny show. In fact, I remember one show where it was a young couple, maybe even newlyweds, who discovered, on cable television, that they had completely opposite opinions on decorating style. He liked modern, she liked traditional. He liked black and gray, she liked bright colors. And her face told the real story: Who have I just hitched myself to? Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I remember watching Bob Vila with my sister here and there when we were kids, but for the life of me I have no idea what we liked about it. This will turn into an existential dilemma for me. Thanks a lot.

    As for HGTV, I can’t stand it. If I had to choose between watching the local news or HGTV I would probably slam my head off a cotton chaise lounge to render myself unconscious.

    1. Just make sure that the chaise lounge is in a neutral tone so that you don’t turn off buyers who might not share the same decorating values as you. And did you know that chaise lounge is actually of corruption of “chaise longue,” French for “long chair.” When I heard that I thought, “That’s exactly what it is! So clever!”

      Yes, I guess we’ll never know what draws us to these home improvement shows. I can’t believe that it’s just the polished floors, stained decks, and marble countertops. No, I think it may have something to do with the personality of the host, the protagonist tracing a narrative arc with measuring tape and work gloves. Obviously you found Bob Vila a compelling and convincing character and wanted to see him succeed in his conflict with the BBT; that is, the run-down house. You’re welcome.

  3. Loved this! I will confess, HGTV is one of my favorite channels. Forwarded it to my husband, whose favorite line was the one about the black couches, TV, and garbage. Which might be because it rings so true. Although since the black couches are still in the living room, the TV is still on the wall, and he managed to get out the front door this morning by carefully stepping over the garbage bag I had left there as (I thought) a really big hint that it needed to be taken out, I’m not sure I’m winning this one… My only hope is the kids: I did manage to bring a couple of those along and they think the couches are the best jungle gyms ever, so it’s possible they will destroy them.

    1. Your husband sounds like he’s in the right frame of mind, Wendy. Let HGTV into your home, there’s no telling where it ends. Although isn’t it ironic that there’s no HGTV without TV? And yes, kids will destroy a couch. But they won’t see it that way.

  4. “Every Saturday morning, instead of going to synagogue like the Torah commands, I sit in my living room and watch my wife watching what I’ve come to call ‘house shows.'”

    I guess you and my husband worship in the same way! Great post. I have missed you! 😉 I call HGTV “Covet” Television. And I actually think it is extremely unhealthy. And yet I can’t turn it off.

    1. Thank you, Renee. It’s just not the same without you here. I’ve also thought it unhealthy to watch people living in dream homes that were put together by professionals and edited down to a half-hour or hour segment, hiding the real cost, time and effort, and making it look like everyone can have it if they just get their butts off the couch. It creates unrealistic expectations. No one can leave the couch, especially while the show is on.

  5. House Hunters just makes me jealous, and frankly, pissed. Single woman, early 20’s, with a budget for a house ‘under $400,000.” What does she DO for a living? At that age, what CEO position or Network Marketing Regional Directorship has she been awarded?? Then, to further curdle my cream, she proceeds to find fault with every single one of the houses the real estate agents show her- in snotty detail. All I can think of is, “How much is that mortgage payment?!” Better yet, “How much is that real estate shark making on it?”. But hey, just because I am much older and much less accomplished doesn’t mean it’s OK to bash the wealthy…right?

    1. Lol. What does she “do” for a living? What exactly are you implying? And I know what you’re talking about, finding faults with every single house. “Oh, I really do like the kitchen, and the yard, and the location, and it is in my price range. But the second-floor bathroom has a weird shape.” The best was a guy who didn’t like a house because the first room off of the stairs was the master bedroom. How his wife could tolerate such a pill is beyond my understanding.

      And it’s always okay to bash the wealthy. If not them, who then?

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