Monday, October 13, 2008

Extreme Cynicism: Home Edition

Mrs. Matthews had control of the remote control during dinner last night, and I was therefore forced to watch the modern day version of "Queen For A Day", otherwise known as "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition". There is no show on television that irritates me more, but at the same time allows me to unload my quiver with a full arsenal of snarky arrows!

For those of you who are blissfully ignorant of the way this show operates... Each week, producers pick a worthy family who is a pillar of their community who also happens to live in a hovel that is worthy of condemnation. The family is then whisked off to a week-long vacation (usually at a Disney property, since this is aired on Disney-owned ABC), while a local builder and the family's neighbors build them a new home.

Usually, the winning way to be chosen as the recipient family is to have some bit of tragedy fall upon you. In this case, the Dad of the family had died, leaving behind a house that had apparently crumbled beyond repair, leaving Mom, a 29-year teaching veteran to raise her family alone. Never mind the fact that 2 of her 4 children are already out of the house and off to college... The larger point is that their house is a slum, giving the show's producers an excuse to tear it down and build a shiny new McMansion that is completely out of character with every other home in the neighborhood!

Sometimes, the producers really have to stretch to turn the recipient families into "heroes" or "victims" in order to give them their new homes... There has been one case in which a foster family had a new home built for them because they had taken in five recently-orphaned kids. Well, within a year or so, all five kids were out of the house and suing their foster family for ownership of the house. In another case, a home was built for a father of four whose wife had abandoned the family. Well, yes, technically, Mom HAD left... But she was living down the street with her boyfriend, and she saw her kids all the time - even as the new house was being built! And there are also cases where some of the families were given this enormous gift - and then squandered it. See my previous post on this phenomenon here.

The show's producer's may want you to think the theme of the show is community charity, but in reality, "EM:HE" is an ode to product placement! From the moment the local builders show up with their company's name on their shirts, and local residents march in carrying American flags, Wisconsin state flags and flags bearing the builder's name on them, we discover that this is one big logo-fest... We see carpenters using Craftsman tools (from Sears) and Kenmore appliances (from Sears) being installed in the new kitchen. We see new furniture arriving, with the name of the furniture company plastered on the side of the truck delivering it. One of the show's designers takes a field trip to a Lands End factory (owned by Sears - do you detect a trend?), where he sees pants being manufactured... No matter, Lands End also apparently sells outdoor furniture, thereby allowing the product placement to make a modicum of sense! We also get to see the recipient family on vacation - wearing Disney shirts, of course!

Another major ingredient of any "Extreme Makeover" episode is seeing the designers go way overboard in designing individual rooms. In this episode, a teenage boy reveals he's a fan of computers... So his room is designed with a floor that literally plays pong, and a computer screen that doubles as a 40-inch (at least) plasma screen television... That's one other required rule of "EM:HE" - Every room in the house, by law, MUST have a large screen plasma TV in it - the better to show the "EM:HE" logo on it.

The rooms displayed on the shows are always way cool to look at on television, but I always wonder, especially in the cases of children, what will happen when they outgrow their childhood passions. I remember one 6-year-old kid who liked fishing was given a fishing-themed bedroom, complete with a rowboat bed! Yeah - he'll still think THAT'S cool when he's 14!

Now, I fully realize I'm being a cynic. I'm quite sure the folks at "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" have changed the lives of dozens of families for the better. But the show is such an easy target!

Don't they know that saccarhine causes cancer?

1 comment:

Dr. Obnoxious, PhD said...

I most definitely concur, father.