Newest Review: ... the lucky family explains its plight or gets back from vacation from Disney - one of our sponsors as it happens. Shots of all the very gen... more
Brash, manipulative tear-jearking but strangely compulsive
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Author Name: Adrian Matthews
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Advantages: Optimistic feel-good entertainment overwhelms with the sheer size of its ambition
Disadvantages: Real emotion and cynical product placement in the same shot are not good companions
Dewy-eyed designers sit in the bus nodding sympathetically at the tale of woe unfolding during the target family's application video. Staged design team meetings pretend to come up spontaneously with brilliant ideas for rooms full of dinosaurs that four-year-olds may have to live with at least till they take up the college scholarships that will be coming to them rather than any other deserving students who haven't just also won the TV equivalent of the lottery. Sweeping music uses every trick it can lay its hands on to bludgeon you into high emotion when the lucky family explains its plight or gets back from vacation from Disney - one of our sponsors as it happens. Shots of all the very genuine, very big hearted volunteers pan away to dwell lovingly on a box which just happens to say "Daltile" (presumably another of our sponsors). The mix of warmth, crass consumerism, human goodness, corporate self interest, optimism and irritating brashness has never been so potent, so appalling and so appealing at the same time.
I can think of 101 reasons not to watch, from the transparent fakery of so much of the production to Ty's ennervating hyperactivity, Michael Moloney's saccharin mushiness (he's by no means the only culprit, he just comes to mind) and Ed Sanders' accent which has been described as "150% Cockney". But watch it I do. And on cue I tear up. I hate myself for it but I watch. And to be fair, the genuine vounteers are mightily impressive and some of the families are really heroic.
And of course it is not philanthropy. It is entertainment. When even the active participation of the First Lady (without a single political reason for taking part of course) could not keep the viewing figures high enough, ABC pulled the show without a second thought despite an in-tray heaving with applications from families just as desperate as the ones undoubtedly helped.
Yes there were a few frauds or scoundrels among the "deserving", not all of the houses it seems lived up to their promise, not all of the lives were truly better after the circus left town, but overall it must rank as one of the better "reality" shows. It was certainly the biggest.
When it works it works well, and when it works really well, I wonder at how a society can be so bad at arranging itself that so many people through no fault of their own can left so horribly far behind. And I wonder what fate awaits the tens of thousands of applicants who were not quite such good TV material.
Summary: Tries too hard to be liked, cynical product placement, but the genuine altruism wins out in the end.