HGTV, home-buying, Reality TV, Uncategorized

Talking Back to House and Garden TV

I confess–my favorite television is HGTV (House and Garden), though I don’t believe all I see there.

It’s supposedly Reality TV, but If you watch “Love it or List it” enough you’ll soon have the script by heart. REAL ESTATE AGENT, SHOWING HOUSE: “And here you have your open-concept living, dining, and kitchen area.” Then, “What do you think this house is listed at?”

“Love It or List It” is a reality sitcom, predictable and easy to watch. Scenes are well managed for dramatic effect, plus you learn what you should want in a home–nothing but the best, newest and most spacious. You’d think, though, that the team charged with renovations would not so often be surprised, halfway through a project, to discover the roof is bad.

I bet other fans groan as they follow the parent-child partners in “My House, Your Money,” in which the old folks supplying the down payment eventually give in to the young ones’ need for the best condo or house, even if it is “over budget.” Hey, you won’t get picked for these shows if you’re not ready for combat.

Conflict and challenge pepper HGTV’s most popular shows. The house-buyers must not be reasonable, compliant or quiet. They also must be more attractive and articulate than ordinary folks. I can imagine rehearsals for House Hunters: BUYER: “What will I say?” DIRECTOR: “Lots of natural light. This is a good space.”

On “Love It or List It,” homeowners are surely prompted to complain about the designer in charge of renovations (Hillary) and real estate agent (David). In every episode, homeowners’ unhappiness with the whole deal reaches a crisis right before the final reveal. Hillary has accomplished the impossible. David has finally found a wonderful house in their current neighborhood, though of course it’s over budget. Will they love their home or list it?

Families from cluttered houses love them again when someone takes away all their stuff. Beautiful design, a feeling of spaciousness and new furnishings sell houses. That’s your message from our sponsors. Plus a subtle warning that eight or ten years from now, new prospects for your house will be aghast at the ‘dated’ fashion of everything. It’s enough to make us unhappy with our kitchens, bathrooms, and closets! Wait, that’s the point? Hmmm…the sponsors are…

HGTV, like all media, should come with warnings. “What you are about to see represents a small fraction of the reality of home ownership.”

As long as these things are sponsored and as long as we viewers are drawn to glitz and glamor, there’s no possibility of a more realistic presentation, like how it’s possible to be happy in a small, one-bathroom, unfashionable house with worn carpet and faded wallpaper!

Ladies, listen to an old crank: if you have four bathrooms, you have four toilets to clean. If you have nineteen-foot ceilings, you have more to heat, repaint, repair. If you have an open-concept first floor, everyone who comes to the door will see the whole mess at once. Do you want to be a slave to your house–or can you afford a maid?

I feel sorry for young marrieds who must have high-end finishes, granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, walk-in closets, and double sinks in the master ‘en-suite,’  just as they had to have certain brands of tennis shoes, jeans, and phones. Fashion is fickle. They’re being conned.

Go ahead, love HGTV. Just don’t buy it.


15 thoughts on “Talking Back to House and Garden TV”

  1. Nice piece, Carol. I’m a sucker for those type of shows, too. WE have a programme over here called Grand Designs (I think I may have seen every episode – and I don’t mean for this season!)

  2. I sit and watch the “house hunters” shows, entertained, and want to shout – if you don’t like the color, just repaint it! As I sit with my hopelessly outdated formica countertops.

    1. Jane, the lure is all about the talk (and shout)-back! Thanks for your comment. I love those granite countertops, but long ago decided I don’t have to have everything I love. Just the main things. 🙂

  3. When we renovated our kitchen, I opted FOR formica…they’re blue and I love them. Plus, paying less for my kitchen allowed us to take more frequent vacations!!! Lots more fun than being in my kitchen!!

  4. Hahahaha, you sound like me. I always talk (or shout) at the tv when I’m watching HGTV. Somethings on there are just down right ridiculous, other things are fun to watch, but yeah, it’s all a set up. As long as people remember that reality tv isn’t real.

  5. Carol, I couldn’t agree more with your excellent comments on HGTV. I talk back, too; these house hunters with their insistence on high-end perfection are irritating, to say the least. Don’t they know that dealing with imperfections and even inconveniences builds creativity and character? And like Jane, I say paint the darned thing if you don’t like the color! In one episode, a woman rejected every house she saw because she didn’t like the faucets. And the bathrooms are almost always said to need “updating.” Hey, if it has a working toilet, shower, bathtup, and sink, it has what it needs, doesn’t it? The least “updated” bathroom in America would seem like an incredible luxury to the rest of the world. I watch some of those programs with the same horrified fascination with which I occasionally watch Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel. (Watch that one for some insight into the obesity epidemic.)

    1. Carol- indeed! In its viewer base, HGTV catches both extremes – those who swallow the message and those of us who watch in ‘horrified fascination.’ I’m sure HGTV is happy to have both!

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