Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Shana loves Extreme Makeover:Home Edition. It's my only reason for watching it. But while doing so, I find myself feeling more resentful of the premise of the show than appreciative. There's something so inherently manipulative about the subtle and subliminal advertisements appearing throughout (where do the families go during the makeover? Disney. Who owns ABC?). There's also something incredibly stressful about living in a house that surpasses your usual lifestyle. The sad and harsh reality when the selected family realizes that their day-to-day will never come close to the home they reside in. The emasculating component of the show when the husband considers that his duty, to provide, has been taken from his hands and placed into those of a loud-mouth named Ty.

And while I have always been suspect of the Extreme Makeover:Home Edition (for one, who pays for the new utility bills? Or the new property taxes?), the Leomatis brings my worst concerns to life. After the death of the Higgins children’s' parents within weeks of each other, the Leomatis family took the four children in, ages ranging from 14-21. In retrospect, the Leomatis children are now claiming that the care was provided so as to ensure a better chance on EHM. Moreover, they claim that shortly after production wrapped, the Leomitis began working to evict the Higgins children — who are black — through physical abuse and name-calling, including repeatedly using a racial epithet. None of the Higgins children lives in the house any longer and they have gone forth with a lawsuit.

This past Sunday night, the Extreme Makeover team remade a double-occupancy home within a homeless shelter community for two low-income families. A lovely gesture and a heartwarming episode. But when the team notices the rest of the shelter community getting jealous, they take them to Sears — a prominent and exclusive advertiser — where inevitably, all their problems will be solved. After all, one shopping spree makes all the pain go away.

Makeover shows are fun to watch as they take us through the spectrum of human emotion. From tragic sadness to unprecedented jubilation, all tightly wrapped up within an hour. But one issue that these shows don't address is that superficial and unearned reward could ultimately do more damage than good. Yes, it can be argued that some of these shows are important in perpetuating the spirit in random acts of kindness and charity, but on the other hand, what ever happened to our Zaide's philosophy that you can give a man a fish but you also teach him how to catch one himself?

Extreme Makeover:Home Edition creates short-term solutions. It’s unfortunate that the cameras aren't around a few months later when problems truly arrive like envious neighbors, potential robberies, and the aforementioned financial dilemmas. Maybe I'm taking this all too seriously but shows like The Swan, Average Joe and even Queer Eye For The Straight Guy are all reminders that you are not good enough as you are and that something needs to change. As an aside, a few months back, Shana entered me into consideration for Queer Eye. After an initial round of phone interviews (I would have gladly done the show), they decided I wasn't tragic enough for them. Queer Eye was admittedly looking to do something along the lines of EHM and the more tragic the backstory, the better. We're sorry, said the booking agent, but that's what sells these days.

And sells it does.

The reality makeover show riles me because of the high level of emotional manipulation. Essentially, these programs are episodes of subliminal advertising. I have no problem with that concept--I worked in advertising--but using people's misfortunes as a PR opportunity doesn't sit well with me.

I'm not naive. I know television isn't pretty but I just didn't realize how badly it needed a makeover.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, EM-HE is just a big Sears infomercial. The website even has a link where you can go to find the featured products from each show: http://abc.go.com/primetime/xtremehome/featured/sears209.html

Tragedy really is the best product placement. Hmmm... can you get levees at Sears? We'll soon find out!

5:53 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a outdoor advertising site/blog. It pretty much covers outdoor advertising related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

1:08 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Good blog but without advertising sales you have little chance of selling anything.

6:58 AM  

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