Friday, June 12, 2009

How to spell "you're inadequate" with just four letters.

I know exactly what’s wrong with this country and exactly how we’ve gone down the financial path to ruin. Exactly. I’ve thought about this before (and touched on it from time to time) but last night it became more than just a notion to me: it became the absolute truth. Here it is, in four little letters: HGTV.

With all good intentions – doesn’t everyone always have only the best intentions? - HGTV has led us down the path of more, bigger, newer, and shinier? All in the name of surrounding ourselves with a living space that’s truly worthy of us? Don’t we all deserve it?

I watch way too much HGTV. I admit it. I love the makeovers and the creative solutions and the interesting decorating ideas but unlike a lot of people who have made astonishingly bad financial decisions based on dreams and wanting more than their share of the dream than they could possibly afford, I have the common sense God gave a flea. HGTV is about as real as my hair color. And that hasn’t been completely real and true for at least ten years, probably longer.

To me, the biggest offender, the biggest 30-minute version of “all this can be yours” is their show called House Hunters. (I’m not even going to touch House Hunters International which features lovely couples searching for the perfect second home abroad. Charming .) No, the domestic version of House Hunters is aggravating enough.

I must have been born too long ago. Because I simply can’t relate to the following reactions that took place in a recent episode of the show. They should change the name to Entitled House Hunters because it more clearly describes the action.

Here you go: a young couple – I’m guessing they were in their late twenties – are searching for the perfect home, in their very perfect price range of $525,000. Yes, more than half a million dollars. I’m not kidding. Not only did they have the ability to purchase a home for half a million bucks, they had the nerve to complain about the kitchen and bathrooms looking a bit “outdated” and the paint on the living room walls needing to be changed. They hated green! How could they move into a home that had walls painted green?? (The man pointed out that at an asking price of $515,000, they would have some money left over to play with; money that would help make everything more perfect for them should they make an offer. That’s very comforting, isn’t it? )

In the second home they visited, the back yard wasn’t landscaped quite as nicely as they had hoped for either. It wasn’t nearly as private as they wanted it to be. Landscaping. Please. Landscaping. Once again, I can barely relate, and I’m pretty far out of my twenties. In my twenties, I didn’t know what a boxwood was and couldn’t have cared less about knowing. Then again, this is why my backyard still doesn’t look quite the showplace I envisioned 18 years ago. Someday…just not now.

By the time they took a look at home #3 (they always choose from three on the show), I had stopped listening. I was disgusted with their attitude. God only knows what wasn’t right about the third house. Maybe the front door didn’t have the right kind of handle. How could they live with the wrong handle on the front door? Or maybe the fireplace had the wrong kind of mantle. What in the world would they do with a painted wood mantle?

Once again, I must be getting really, really old. I don’t begrudge people what they’ve earned – I really don’t. But programs like House Hunters, that repeatedly shows people whining and complaining about things like the too-small master bath, the cramped extra bedroom, the oak cabinets in the kitchen when they really wanted cherry, the wall-to-wall carpet in the dining room placed over perfectly good hardwood floors, the laundry room that doesn’t have enough space, the bonus room that won’t quite hold their pool table….this is just nuts.

So where does that leave us? The banks and the government and financial planners tell us to be logical and thrifty. Networks like HGTV offers a program that centers around people who covet only the best and look disgusted with homes that cost $515,000. Which one do you think most people will listen to?

Me too.


Chris Casey said...

Renee, I have an idea.

We should ask RCN to let us do a version of the show in Allentown

How about calling it, "Who wants to live in a row home?!"

Can you imagine the paint and landscaping issues in parts of the inner city? Now there would be something for the happy couple to complain about!

renee said...

That would be hilarious but where would the envy factor come in? Where would the greed and covetous nature of all HGTV shows play a part in this?
If we ever produced a show featuring a real life home and real people dealing with the problems, no one would tune in. They can get that right at home.

My problem with HGTV isn't the "dream" nature of the programming. It's more about the nature of the people on the shows. People like the couple that believed their gorgeous French Provincial home needed a "Curb Appeal" upgrade, including a dedicated sports area for their children. Please.

LVCI said...

Television producers pretend there's no economic problems for the simple reason they don't want to scare off their advertising incomes. They want their advertisers to feel their particular viewers are affluent and can afford the sponsor's over the top home furnishings. Question is, like all "reality" shows, is it actually faked? Are we able to actually look online in multi-listings whether the homes were actually purchased? Somehow I am a doubter. HGTV is a fun watch, but I don't take them seriously. It leaves viewers with a false impression that the rest of America is made up of a bunch of spoiled brats. Somehow I refuse to accept that about the majority of us.

TV largely ignores the N.O. lower 9th ward, Houston, Flint, Mich., etc. Where the REAL majority of lives are played out daily.

It is a fact that the majority of news programs have been watered down because there are larger rating returns for news programs that do not dwell on bad things. Hence weather, traffic, puff pieces and light hearted banter. That said, it is a fact that during the 30's depression most people would go spend a nickel to see a fantasy MGM movie musical about wealthy souls they couldn't ever hope to become to escape their everyday financial hardships.

If I want true reality, I watch PBS's "Frontline". Now that's some scary stuff

renee said...

Thanks LVCI -

The ad income is critical to the network as you point out. Although I suspect the demographics of HGTV are mostly desirable.

I wouldn't be surprised if the producers took a turn in their programming given the financial straits we're in and spend more time on true middle income homeowners and how they deal with their "design" issues.

If not, the fun factor, the voyeuristic factor we all enjoy when watching HGTV will start to fade and feel kind of like we're all fiddling while the neighborhood burns.