Oh, the drama…
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BUILD's 15 step home-show guide to controversy, tears and drama.
[Image source: TV Guide]
It’s surprising really, how often we’re approached by television networks about being involved in those home construction and remodel shows. The offers are all over the map with a seemingly infinite number of themes, from “One Room Makeovers” and “World’s Greenest Homes” to “24 Hour Design.” We’ve even been approached about turning our couch cushion architecture series into a show. There is always an exhilarating tinge at first, knowing that BUILD is finding its way in the world and making an impression on people. But then the reality sets in—the reality of how little reality is involved in these shows. No matter the theme, the location, or the people involved, they all have one thing in common: drama. It usually goes something like this:
1. Ordinary suburban couple with big dreams explains their dreary house and exposes some of their odd but acceptable lifestyle peculiarities.
2. Extremely attractive interior designer/architect (EAID/A) graciously meets ordinary suburban couple and quietly surveys the situation. Close-up on EAID/A’s questioning facial expression.
3. Cut to scene: confessional with EAID/A criticizing the dreary home and laying the groundwork for the brilliant design scheme they will bestow upon the ordinary suburban couple. Adjective “potential” is used liberally.
4. Group walk through the dreary home while ordinary suburban couple respectfully listens to EAID/A’s brilliant design scheme.
5. Controversy #1 emerges as EAID/A’s brilliant design scheme conflicts with one or more of ordinary suburban couple’s odd but acceptable lifestyle peculiarities. Ordinary suburban couple share concerned glances with one another. Uncomfortable quiet engulfs room. Cut to commercial.
6. Confessional with ordinary suburban couple criticizing the EAID/A and brilliant design scheme. First F-bomb is dropped.
7. Construction begins on site. EAID/A wearing “work boots” makes sweeping hand gestures to a slightly overweight, disheveled general contractor while 2-3 lanky but equally disheveled laborers try to look busy in the background. Slightly overweight, disheveled general contractor agrees to impossible <insert time or financial commitment>.
8. Ordinary suburban couple “drop by” the site to see how the construction work is coming along. Slightly overweight, disheveled general contractor mixes something while 2-3 lanky but equally disheveled laborers look busy in background. Enjoyable tour until ordinary suburban couple enters room of odd but acceptable lifestyle peculiarity compromise. Uncomfortable looks shared between ordinary suburban couple. Someone stomps out of room.
9. Cut to scene: confessional with ordinary suburban couple, wife sheds first tears of project explaining further background about odd but acceptable lifestyle peculiarity. Husband quietly nods and remains supportively reticent. Cut to commercial.
10. Close-up of EAID/A while driving a high-end sports utility vehicle and talking on phone. EAID/A inquires about “a situation on site” in a calm yet surprised manner. Controversy #2 emerges. Call ends, scene transfer to confessional in moving high-end sports utility vehicle. EAID/A expresses concern while shaking head. Explanation of repercussions from unmet expectations.
11. Site meeting with EAID/A and slightly overweight, disheveled general contractor, 2-3 lanky but equally disheveled laborers looking busy in background. Aloof EAID/A expresses disappointment that <insert time or financial commitment> has not been met. Slightly overweight, disheveled general contractor stands back from work area looking bewildered at lack of appreciation of work, rubs back of neck and looks off into distance with hopeless dismay. Fade to commercial.
12. EAID/A shown moving things around house and appearing to contribute manual labor. slightly overweight, disheveled general contractor painting while 2-3 lanky but equally disheveled laborers look busy in background.
13. Cut to scene: confessional with EAID/A optimistically discussing final stages of project and projecting merits of improved future lifestyle of ordinary suburban couple.
14. Giddy ordinary suburban couple enters remodeled home looking around in amazement. Wife uses <insert newly repaired home feature> with delight. Husband stands in background nodding head and smiling, hands on hips. Ordinary suburban couple endows hugs to EAID/A and EAID/A makes friendly but swift exit.
15. Splashy preview for next week’s show. Build-up of controversy between new EAID/A and new ordinary suburban couple. Tears, edited cursing and someone exclaiming “I just don’t think this is going to work.” EAID/A is referred to as a prima donna. Someone storms out of room. Cut to commercial.
This 15 step guide could be applied to just about every show that has approached us. It’s the pre-fabricated, canned, slapped together formula for home remodel drama. And apparently it works, because there are more of these shows out there than we can keep track of.
[Image source: HGTV]
But it’s not reality and it’s not how these industries work. These shows are theater. These shows mislead people to think that the design and construction industries are explosive, schizophrenic and filled with drama. If the job doesn’t get done in 24 hours or less everybody should freak out and let it all loose in a confessional. Amazingly, everything is always wrapped up in a nice kosher bow at the end of the hour slot—unbelievable, they pulled it off again! These shows mislead viewers to think that all homeowners might fall over and die from their current interiors, that all construction workers are buffoons, and that all architects and designers are narcissistic.
[Image source: HGTV]
The fact of the matter is that we (and most architects) have a huge amount of respect for clients and builders. Some of our clients are the most level-headed people we’ve ever met and some of the builders the smartest. Similarly, clients put a significant amount of trust in us to design and build their home; good general contractors respect the relationship between designer and builder. There aren’t many arguments, f-bombs or tears. These things are manufactured to keep the attention of audiences that need ever-increasing doses of drama to hold their attention. Instead, the actual process involves a lot of hard work, clear communication and rational problem solving. Extraordinary outcomes are a direct result from being great with people, listening to their needs, responding to their concerns and delivering something purposeful. It’s also a much slower process. Good work takes time.
[Image source: Media Bistro]
So when the networks are willing to do a show about how design and construction *really* occur, sign us up. We’d love to contribute. We’d be honored to play a role in the real reality of design and construction. But until we hear an authentic pitch, we’re going to pass on the controversy, tears and drama.
Cut to commercial.