I have been watching the various home remodeling shows on cable for a year or two. If you have the basic cable programming package then it seems like half the stations are what one can lump into that category of reality tv. Back in the old days, two decades ago, perhaps three, if memory serves, there were a number of do-it-yourself and remodeling or construction shows on PBS. This Old House and its spin off New Yankee Workshop with Norm Abrams was always well worth the effort to watch since one could pick up a few tips and tricks. As a child I learned a lot about construction watching houses being built in my neighborhood. Hometime provided a fare new construction and remodeling while Bob Villa did more remodeling on his show. And one of my great favorites was Roy Underhill as the Woodwright. Roy showed how to use the simple old technology that existed before power equipment. He was historical recreation at its best in woodworking. More than anyone he popularized the back to basics movement that not only sprung up but has expanded as hundred of thousands of people, both men and women, attend week long courses on the use of hand tools. More and more people are learning the old craft skills.
Now maybe if I upgraded and payed a lot more I might bet more of these DYI channels, but I don’t see the need. You Tube has more than enough videos on how to do stuff. On the other hand the replacement tv shows are ones like Property Brothers, Love It Or List It, Rehab Addict, and one more out of Waco Texas, I can’t remember the name. There may be one or two I have missed, but that is not important. Of the ones I have listed, the Property Brothers has the least drama. Of course trying to show couples that it may be cheaper or better to buy a property that needs renovation and turn it into a residence that has what they want is not always easy. Not that many individuals have the ability to envision what a run down house will look like after changes are made. Not everyone can see the potential in remodeling/rebuilding a run down structure. Both brothers have had some experience in construction and real estate, and both have gone through design schools. While the one brother concentrates on the real estate side of the business the other is the contractor. Both do the design work. And the brothers give the home owners a chance to participate in the first stages of demolition. Some of the individuals even contribute more sweat equity by doing some of the painting or even some of the construction. Usually we do not see too many major problems that need expensive solutions. And if Johnathan gets blind sided with a major problem he usually has a way to cope with that problem. Of course money is always a problem in that there may not be enough cash to do everything or buy the most expensive appliances. But on a whole, this is one of the best shows of its kind.
There are two versions of Love It Or List It, the first is based in the Toronto area and the second in the Vancouver area. Both versions rely heavily on the “DRAMA” effect. The set up is that couples/families need more space, more storage, and more ‘refreshing’ of their residences. Now maybe many of these individuals are coached to act surprised, stupid, or generally idiotic, but one gets the impression that there are a great many whiners without a clue in life. So many of these people seem terribly incompetent in life. They lack basic organization skills like pick up after yourself. They also appear to be pack rats that need to rid themselves of a lot of junk. And it seems that a family of four can’t possibly live in a three bedroom one bath residence of 1100 sqft. My god, I grew up in that kind of environment and we were a family of five. Who are these people kidding? In both versions the designer is the goddess of the show. At least Hilary in Toronto is a bit more practical and actually listens to the wants of the couple. The designer in Vancouver is an airhead, she does not understand ergonomics and practical design. Vancouver goes for the glitz and that is exactly where the remodeling money goes. In both cases, this mania for open floor design reaches the heights of stupidity. One might as well buy a warehouse and move in, there’s your open design. I am amazed that both designers walk into a house and not know that there are a great many problems just waiting to sabotage the budget. At least Hilary puts more of the clients money to better use but the amount of waste is still astounding. Often times in these remodeling shows good material. appliances, and so forth are thrown out for the sake of all new and shiney replacements. Why not remove cabinets for sale or for gifting to Habitat for Humanity?
Now contrast these three shows with Rehab Addict in which Nicole tries to reuse as much of the original material. And what is to be thrown out is truly unusable. Take any scrap metal or old cast iron radiators to recycle sites. If any cabinets are removed they are stored or sold in as good condition as found. Of course the difference here is that Nicole buys the condemned properties in Detroit for exceptionally low costs and then does some of the work herself. She does have carpenters and contractors that she brings in and pays out of her pocket but she still does the significant planning and detailed work herself. Then she sells those properties when the work is completed. She started as a real estate agent and had to find a way to change her vocation when the housing boom crashed. There are a couple of other reality shows like that in which former real estate agents move on to flipping houses that have been defaulted or are very low priced relative to their neighborhood and remodeling may allow a significant profit. In these flip the house shows the “DRAMA” is vastly overstated and the former real estate agent does little, if any, of the rehab work. Again, we encounter the premium of open floor concept and the need for travertine tile and granite counter tops. I also can’t believe how much space people thing they need to prepare a meal in a kitchen. I only need a fourth of that amount and I prepare meals from scratch with a French flair. And none of these designers, these flippers, And these remodelers use simple solutions. It’s as if these people can’t think beyond new and improved. I was always amazed at the many simple solutions Norm Abrams and his crew could come up with and save the home owner a bit of money here and there. I am amazed.