HGTV launched several weeks ago, bringing with it a delapidated villa’s worth of home renovation viewing options. Joanna McLeod explains why she can’t break free from HGTV and the mysterious allure of The Property Brothers.
It started innocently enough, stumbling across Better Homes & Gardens on Choice TV. Before long, I had the know-how and confidence to paint over some creepy bird tiles in my kitchen and recaulk my bath and basin. More time passed, and I had watched enough to start speculating that Tara the interior-doer and Jason the garden guy were totally having an affair. The show soon became my Friday night ritual if I had nothing better to do. Even if I was out, I’d try to record it for later because it’s perfect for soothing a hangover.
With this habit in mind, I should have been more cautious when ChoiceTV started screening ads for their new channel HGTV. I should have known that I am an absolute sucker for a renovation show (although even I have abandoned the cold mess The Block, surely only Jane is left watching it?).
It’s too late: I am already addicted to the unbelievably bland (yet mysteriously magnetic) identical twins Jonathan and Drew aka the Property Brothers.
I know it’s 2016 and people’s sexuality is no-one else’s business, but I’m pleased to find out that I’m not the only person googling the twins to find out who they’re into (beware this link contains a clown pic). If I hadn’t seen the whole series dedicated to building their dream home in Las Vegas, I would have imagined they sleep in bunk beds. Somehow, the Property Brothers have no less than three shows spread out on ChoiceTV and HGTV. And somehow I keep watching.
HGTV has their female equivalents too. There’s Listed Sisters, which centres around a couple or family looking to upgrade their house. Just like the Property Brothers, one sister works with them to find a new house, while the other renovates their existing one – all so they can afford the four bathroom monstrosity that they inevitably always end up buying.
Perhaps this is why HGTV makes for such compelling viewing. It’s an orgy of conspicuous consumption featuring people who take it as written that there must be two basins in the master bath (you would never consider a house without an ensuite, what is wrong with you?) In the past couple of days I’ve learned about the existence of pasta taps (because heaven forbid you have to use your kettle), and a house I saw on Selling L.A had a special crescent-shaped sink for wine. I don’t even understand how that works, but I know I don’t need one.
Considering the property market in Auckland right now, HGTV can make for interesting and frustrating viewing. House flipper Cherie Barber on Five Day Flip (who is Australian and has a New Zealander as her head carpenter, just as a matter of interest) buys houses and spends around $40,000 renovating them in five days, hoping for a $25,000 profit. She puts in a butt-tonne of work to get that money. Here, it’d be much easier to just buy a house in Auckland and wait 20 days before selling again. Wait just one extra day and that’ll pay for the pasta tap.
It’s not just the pasta taps that are ridiculous HGTV features though. There’s also Kitchen Cousins. Yes, that really is the name of the show. Many of the shows on HGTV have equally absurd and fake-sounding names like Rehab Addict or Yardcore (Tagline: can two guys create your dream house after just five minutes alone in your house?).
Yet I keep watching. One show bleeds into another and four hours later I’m still on the couch. HGTV’s bread and butter are shows like House Hunters, Island Hunters (who knew there were so many islands for sale in Canada?), International House Hunters, Lakehouse Hunters or Beachfront Bargain Hunt. These all follow the same format: A couple or family are shown around three houses: one will be under their budget, one will be over it and one will need a little imagination to suit their requirements. You don’t find out until the end which one they choose. The most extreme version of this “‘look at three and choose one’” format is My Lottery Dream Home where the terrifying David Bromstad talks couples into spending far more than they intend to, every single time.
It’s MADNESS. Why would you feel the need to go on a television show when you’ve just won $180 MILLION DOLLARS?
Trying to figure out what participants get out of being on the shows is half the fun, although few pack a real emotional punch. It’s not like the olden days of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, where I could be guaranteed to crying by 8.17pm every Monday. The only series I’ve come across that really has a heartfelt payoff is Garage Gold. The Garage Brothers (not actually brothers) clean out spare rooms, sheds and barns for free, in exchange for keeping whatever they find. As the schlubby kind-eyed Kraig puns his way through the work, you can see the emotional weight lifting off the homeowners as they are freed from the hoarding of their parents.
Tears aside, I’m not denying there is more than just a little envy in my HGTV marathons. I wish I could be stopped at the hardware store by someone from Bath Crashers or Kitchen Crashers or House Crashers even if the host is slightly skeevy towards women. I’d like someone to come and fix up all the things in my house that don’t work for me. Meredith Baer on Staged to Perfection has her “boys” whip up a 12 seater tufted white sectional JUST FOR TEMPORARY STAGING in a $12 million dollar house in Beverly Hills. I wish those same boys could come over and sew up the cat-shredded corners of my couch, and maybe fix its slump too.
Oh well, I guess just I’ll be over here in my pyjamas bitching about how many Americans are obsessed with loading up their kitchens full of black granite. As it turns out, money can buy you all the pasta taps in the world, but you can’t put a price on taste.
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