Posted on March 01 2019
HGTV (Home and Garden Television) first aired on December 01, 1994. It came into our area, late 1997. I wonder if founder Ken Lowe had any idea of this network's impact, almost 25 years later? I must admit to being an avid viewer and a fan of its various programming since the beginning. It has created hundreds of shows in 2 countries, a major magazine, contests, social media connections, reality television, holiday specials and retail products. There was even an HGTV day declared in Tennessee - September 09.
This network's shows cover a lot of ground: house hunting (local, tropical, international), decorating, home renovation, home flipping, DIY projects, organization, party hosting, holiday decorating, tiny house living, garden design, landscape design, architectural wonders, renovation rescues, celebrity renovations, country living, city living, revitalization projects, celebrity sponsored contests, rental properties, vacation properties...We have watched these shows from the homeowners' points of views, from flippers' points of views, Designers', buyers', sellers', renters', contractors', gardeners'. The list seems endless.
Millions have really enjoyed how this network has grown and diversified its contents. Some shows have even spawned spin-offs. As a result of these shows' popularity, some of their hosts have stood out and become big stars with lucrative merchandising deals and celebrity status: Drew and Jonathan Scott, Chip and Joanna Gaines, Dave and Kortney Wilson, Nicole Curtis, Tarek and Christina El Moussa, Mike Holmes. Even some trades people have become big stars, such as Ty Pennington.
There are a number of other networks which feature design and construction shows, such as Trading Spaces, Nate & Jeremiah and more. With so many shows to choose from, are we in danger of over saturating our minds and the market? Are you feeling more confused than satisfied? Do your spouses steer clear of this channel or walk out of the room when it's on TV? As long as you are watching "responsibly", there is no harm done. By that I mean, don't take these shows too seriously. Admire the pretty, but don't let their snappy timelines and instant reveals fool you.
I think that there are 2 main dangers of watching too many of these design and decorating shows. One is the potentially growing contempt of our own homes and decor. Watching countless examples of aspirational living can lead to envy and remorse. What we have won't seem good enough, the grass may appear greener on TV.
The second danger is giving the viewers very unrealistic impressions of timelines. Real construction takes a lot longer than it looks. DIY and design can take months, not minutes. First timers will inevitably feel frustration and panic, when they can't demolish a wall within seconds, or tile a bathroom in minutes. A show like Trading Spaces is especially misleading in letting the viewers think that a budget of $1,000 spent within a 48 hour time frame can result in completely revamped rooms. This budget doesn't cover design fees, permit drawings, choosing finishes, construction costs, waste disposal, carpentry, sewing and other DIY projects, painting, flooring installations. Everyone marvels at how much can be done with such a small amount of money.
If you think about it, $1,000 is in fact a lot of money to make a room pretty, if you do not include all of the elements I've mentioned above. And we don't have a cast of hundreds in the background to do most of the unsexy stuff to make it all come together. If I could even manage to hire Nate and Jeremiah to redesign a room or floor of my house, their design fees alone could bust the budget. Hand holding and good taste are expensive!
Trading Spaces on TLC
If you look at the psychology of these shows, their popularity is due to many factors. Mostly, they encourage us to be curious. We have all the advantages of sanitized viewing without any of the pitfalls or downsides of experiencing a renovation. We don't need to suffer through the inevitable upheaval, the dust and dirt and disruptions to our daily lives. We don't need to worry about an ever diminishing bank balance, nor have to figure out how to cook a meal or have a hot shower without working facilities.
It's acceptable voyeurism at its best. We are encouraged to snoop into the lives of those who volunteer to be test subjects. In a strange way, we enjoy watching their suffering as well as cheering for their beautiful final reveals. We experience a certain level of smugness, playing armchair quarterback by believing we could have done it better. We freely love to voice our opinions of the finished products - if only they could hear, they might not want the peanut gallery comments thrown at the TV...but what can I say? I still love it all! And I'll keep watching.
So why all the negativity, when I started off saying how much I enjoy HGTV and all that it has to offer? This is a good example of caveat emptor - let the buyer beware. Enjoy everything in moderation and don't be lulled into a fantasy world where at the blink of an eye, your spaces can be transformed. The main objectives of any TV show are to entertain and to grow their viewership. They will use any means to realise these objectives.
Although unscripted, HGTV shows are highly edited and manipulated to create interest and to keep that interest alive so that you will keep coming back for more. To me they're no different than a design magazine. I can observe and glean what can apply to my life and work out how that can happen. Overall ideas and themes are interesting to watch and be realised. I enjoy the step by step processes of construction and how people arrived at their design choices. I look for new ideas and new ways to re-imagine what I already have.
I like to see how people in different parts of the world live in their homes and to see how space planning can be different region to region. I find it so interesting to see what local buyers look for as well. And of course, I just like to look at pretty stuff. Don't we all?! So yes, I encourage you to watch HGTV. I encourage you to be brave, be curious and get started on your own dream projects. The best way to approach anything in life, is to be an educated and informed participant.