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With age comes wisdom. That said, I would like to know why at just a couple, three clicks away from turning 50, I went and stupidly bought a house. Perfectly happy, if a little cramped, renting my entire adult life, I set aside reason and good judgment and dove into the deep end of the home ownership pool. Freshly in possession of the abode, my dreams are already wracked with fear and regret.. even more so than usual.
Aside from assuming an incomprehensibly large debt load that will undoubtedly pursue me into the grave, my carefree days of renting also happily lacked any type of owner responsibility. Things like renovations, maintenance and repairs. Itís not that Iím completely and utterly clueless in such matters. In my time, I have put up shelves, fixed toilets, changed light bulbs. Itís just that as a renter, the onus is ultimately not on you. If matters get out of hand, somebody else has to assume full responsibility. It is, after all, their house.
Those days are over. Mi casa, mi casa. Roll up your sleeves, pick up that hammer and get your hands dirty. Where the hell is that leak coming from?!
Fortunately, nowadays, a new and inexperienced homeowner doesnít have to lean exclusively on friends or family, or proceed, willy-nilly, by trial and error when faced with the daunting task of upkeep. There are many resources available to the neophyte. Youíve got your Ď...for Dummiesí books along with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of magazines devoted solely to very specific reno projects like bathrooms and kitchens. Then thereís the vast expanse of the interwebs. And of course, what previous generations could only dream of back in the days of 3-channel, non-remote control television: a 24/7 cycle of home and lifestyle programming.
In the salad days of renting, this type of TV was an enigma to me. Sure, there was Martha Stewart but that was simply sport. Who amongst us didnít smugly watch, knowing that she was going to wind up in jail, guilty of insider trading? The woman just had that look about her. And yes, I admit to staring blankly at Bob Vila on more than one occasion, nursing a nasty bout of the flu or some sort of overindulgence of one kind of another, wondering if it was just the sick and unhealthy who sought solace in watching a soft spoken bearded man painstakingly restore some neglected homestead. Please, Bob Vila. Bring me back to life. Please!
Thatís where it ended. It was my belief that if I couldnít entertain the idea of painting a wall in real life, why on earth would I want to watch someone do it on television? Ditto choosing colour patterns for curtains or unravelling the mysteries of insulation. While I may be a harsh critic of much that passes for entertainment on the tube, I certainly was never so desperate as to kill time watching people do what are essentially chores, things that should only be done.. well.. in the privacy of oneís own home.
But now as a homeowner, perhaps itís time to learn the ins-and-outs of exactly how one goes about grouting or cleaning the gutters or upgrading to a 200 amp electrical system. Watching television as a form of research. Truth be told, itís not that Iíd be sacrificing much at this point, given that somehow, despite a 3 month writers strike and shutdown of network television production, the TV season is drawing to its usual month of May end. Come back with big fanfare, air four episodes and thank you, good night. See you all in the fall. Is it just me or do the networks seem to be actively discouraging viewers from watching? Itís like some real life version of The Producers.
We are being dared to watch all those other channels.
Like HGTV and the W network. What they call lifestyle programming. Essentially, itís how local affiliate stations used to fill their weekend daytime schedules. Cheap informational shows that bridged the gap between the Sunday morning news programs and afternoon sports broadcasts. Now, lifestyle programming has its own channels and after spending less than a month watching, I can only say that if Jean-Paul Sartre were alive today, heíd amend his hypothesis of hell being other people to hell is watching other people fix their houses. On TV. Real-life people talking about whatís wrong with their master bedroom. Good god, Iíve bored myself to tears talking about what needs to be done to our kitchen. Why, oh why, oh why would I want to watch someone I donít even know tearfully tell a bubbly designer-cum-TV host how their kitchen cupboards just arenít welcoming? Or some knobby-headed dimwit despair how heís blown the last of his savings unsuccessfully trying to flip a piece of property. He thought it would be so much easier?! After all, heíd seen people do it -- wait for it -- on TV!
If Iíve learned anything watching these shows itís that you will not learn anything watching these shows. Any educational tidbit you might pick up is quickly lost in a fog of repetition, forced realism and deluge of inanity. And repetition. Did I say repetition? Even if I did, let me repeat myself. Repetition. It is my estimation that in any given Ĺ-hour show, there is no more than 8 minutes of actual content sandwiched in between previews of whatís coming after the (incessant) commercial breaks and the recap after said (incessant) commercial break. Weíre not learning calculus here, people. I remember that Marci and Tyler were worried about not having enough money in their budget to swing that tub-spa theyíve always dreamed of having. Itís too bad, yeah. Sad? No. 80,000+ people dead in an earthquake is sad. Not having a tub-spa in your third bathroom is.. just, in a fair and equitable world. Certainly nothing to warrant endless slo-mo shots of an overwrought Marci woefully laying her head on Tylerís shoulder.
This is not real drama. Real drama happens when thereís actual conflict. Conflict is not an argument over whether the new countertop should be ochre or olive. Conflict is not the life or death decision of going with blinds instead of drapes in the living room. Thatís called shopping. When you know going into each and every episode of every one of these shows that, in the end, the renovator or designer and their crew will swoop in and make all their clientsí dreams come true (ďDo you love it? We love it!Ē), well, whatís so compelling about that? Itís certainly not like anything Iíve ever heard happens in real life renovations.
What Iím looking for in these shows is the occasional misstep, a little disappointment every now and then. Someone walking back into their house and stopping up, dumbfounded and uttering: oh my God! What have you done? When Mike Holmes, star of Holmes on Homes, takes out a wall in ex-boxer George Chuvaloís house, wouldnít it be totally absorbing if Chuvalo, outraged, went nuts and cold cocks Holmes, knocking him unconscious? He then chases the crew out of the house with one of their crowbars they stupidly left lying around before he sets to work on Holmesí big-ass SUV parked in the driveway. Smashing the driverís side window, George pries the door off its hinges and when Holmes finally comes to, George asks him how he likes losing a door without being asked.Iím not saying every week. Just sometimes, to keep the audience guessing.
Instead, George ďBoom BoomĒ Chuvalo whom Muhammad Ali called the toughest guy heíd ever fought, gushes, without concern for his pugilistic reputation, over whatís been done to his house. TV renovators and designers save the day again. Modern day superheroes to the rescue, keeping the world safe from clashing colours and sagging floorboards. If only they could offer up a fix for dull, stodgy, and un-engaging television.
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