Monday, May 03, 2004


I'm not a big fan of reality shows, but I must admit to being completely addicted to home improvement shows. Especially if it involves before and after type activities. The human makeover offerings are a little strange because the people who get made over are often made over in Hollywood's idea of beauty which, in my opinion can border on mutilation. The Swan is the best example of this aberration - the women all end up with the same big hair and overly made up "Barbie" faces and it freaks me out. I can't watch it because it gives me bad dreams.

But anyway.

The grand daddy of the home improvement shows has got to be Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Each week on Sunday night at 8pm that goofy looking Ty from Trading Spaces lets some family know that their home will be receiving a complete makeover and then leads the team through the hour/week. The lucky family usually has a fairly dramatic back story like, for instance, last night's family lost their dad - he got sick and died, leaving nine kids for his wife to raise alone. The dad had big plans to fix up this house for his family, in fact, he and his wife had laid tile in their bathroom even after he got sick. But he died.

So there are 7 kids still living at home and they are all so sweet. There are 2 older kids away at college. The mom is just the kind of mom you'd make up if you could make up your fantasy mom. The only thing they ask the Extreme Team to save is the rocking chair where dad rocked all of his babies. You can tell they really miss him a lot. And that they really loved him - I mean I'm missing him too. This family is so loving toward each other and they clearly enjoy being together. It's hard to imagine how two people can properly parent more than 2 kids. Kids are work! They need a lot of attention!! But these two people had created a truly loving family and it is so sad that Dad isn't around to love and be loved.

And this is where I have to run in and get a box of Kleenex because from here on out it's tears. I don't even have to be hormonal. I am just a total sap for this stuff. And it's not just this wonderful family. There was the family whose dad was in the National Guard and got called up to serve in Iraq leaving them in a brand new house with a card table in the kitchen. There was the family whose son had gotten in an accident that paralyzed him from the neck down. There was the man who went out and found his homeless, schizophrenic father and brought him from the stree to live with the family only there wasn't enough room so that poor crazy man was living in a Winnebago on their property. There was the lady in Watts whose house was ruined in the flood and they not only gave her a new home, they fixed up her STREET! and the little community school where she teaches and loves and supports her neighbors.

And these people aren't toothless and pathetic. NO! They're like your neighbors or even you and your family. And they're not complaining. They simply sent in a video telling their story and asking to be considered for an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. So one day they wake up and the whole neighborhood is gathered outside their home along with the Extreme Team and then they get to go on a one week vacation while their home is completely destroyed and they come home to a whole new house.

Since I became a fan of the show I met a guy who did all the electrical wiring for an alarm system that went into one of the homes. He told me that there are like 100 people working on these homes from 6am until sometimes 2 or 3 in the morning the whole week! So while I could be all cynical and focus on how it doesn't really cost the network that much because everything is donated for product placement - thank you Sears! - all of these people who are doing back breaking labor for hours and hours are doing this for more than the money. Another person who lives near Livermore, CA where one of these homes is located (an episode not yet seen) said that people would go over and watch because it is such an amazing thing to see. I mean they're completely tearing down and rebuilding a house in a week!

I love that the designers always cry too - like all of them. Especially last night. They were in tears before the teardown started. Dad's mother showed up as well as the 2 kids who live away from home and they were talking about their memories of dad. Tears - I'm telling you we were all misty from the getgo. As an audience member I was also being manipulated by the "interviews" with the family that they drop in to keep you glued through the construction. The angelic little blonde girl who looked into the camera and said, "befo dis my hawt was bwoken"...


So anyway this family got a whole new front on their house and inside a gourmet kitchen (stove with 8 burners, 3 ovens, 2 microwaves and the biggest refrigerator you've ever seen!), new family/living room/dining room, new bedrooms for the 2 boys who were sleeping in the hall and made over bedrooms for everyone else, a solarium game room and a playhouse that is also an outdoor home theatre with a big screen that lowers and a projection system. The little girls also got dance lessons to go with their ballerina room.

In addition to the memory tree out front which will grow and shade the house, there is also a family tree in the front hall - pictures of all 9 children with a picture of mom on one side and dad on the other and candles burning in a holder that they built that is shaped like a cool modernistic tree. By this time everyone is crying - the whole family and everyone who worked on the project. The family keeps saying how grateful they are and how much they appreciate it and how much dad would have loved everything that was done to this house that he wanted to make a great place for his family to live.

And under it all they are still missing him and you can totally tell that if they had the option of living in this great house or having their dad back, they would pick their dad and live in a refrigerator box.

So as the clock ticks 9pm I am sitting on the couch clutching my box of Kleenex and sobbing like the Extreme crybaby that I am.

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