The latest addition to the home makeover/real estate genre is, at best, a conceptual fixer-upper and at worst a tone-deaf version of “The Price Is Right” — with the “prize” being the freedom to stay a while longer in your over-leveraged house. Although the show’s educational in some respects given the downturn in the housing market and the rash of foreclosures, it’s hard to escape a queasy sense that TLC is exploiting the situation for reality TV drama purposes by essentially creating “Exterior Makeover: Try Not to Lose Your Home Edition.”
In the premiere, host-consultant Kristen Kemp Becker introduces a family treading water in the face of a $3,825 monthly mortgage. Her solution is to give them $10,000 to maximize the marketability of their house, either to refinance into a lower payment or lift the home closer to its $553,000 purchase price in order to sell it.
Yet what ensues against that rather sobering backdrop, as presented by exec producer R.J. Cutler, is another ticking-clock contest: While Becker stands by looking concerned, the couple (parents to an infant, by the way) race an arbitrary, Chyron-heavy countdown to their next mortgage payment (“9 Days Left!”) and whether they can complete the necessary work (“$4,879 Left!”) without exceeding their show-given budget.
In the final reel, a real estate agent and mortgage lender evaluate the house, delivering the (good or bad) news.
Frankly, it’s hard to think of a more cynical approach to an in-the-headlines topic, given that the goal here is to avoid being booted onto the street. The only compensating factor is that Becker, a Realtor herself, does present valuable tidbits about improving curb appeal, fixing up kitchens, etc., though it’s not really anything that couldn’t be gleaned from a quick Google search.
TLC hasn’t exactly been on a creative roll lately (the net’s last new program, “Ashley Paige: Bikini or Bust,” is just plain irritating), and the Discovery-owned channel’s difficulty in finding its footing triggered a recent executive shift. None of that bodes particularly well for this series.
Real estate may be all about location, but in television, timing can be everything.