I have grown children so I know all about drinking games.
For example, they tell me that “Shark Week” is one long drinking game during which viewers pound back a slug of beer when they hear an Australian accent, when a shark leaps from the water, when a diver enters an underwater cage, etc.
Besides the sociability, these games are often designed to highlight, if not outright mock, the mind-numbing triviality and repetitive cliches which stitch these programs together.
Don’t misunderstand. I love this show. Rose and I can watch two to three episodes a night before we have to do something useful, like slap each other up the side of the head to restore blood circulation to the brain. “House Hunters International” is the TV version of crack for budding ex-pats.
The fact that all episodes are shoehorned into the same template, regardless of where they take place, is what makes it so suitable as a drinking game.
Here’s the template:
A couple – gay, straight, married, unmarried, just friends, doesn’t matter– from somewhere in the U.S. decides to move to a foreign country where a nice looking real estate agent asks them what they are looking for in a new home and how big a budget they have to work with.
The agent then proceeds to show the couple the first of three properties. Usually one property is under budget, one is over and one is spot on. Usually. Sometimes two of the three can be over budget if the seekers have unrealistic expectations.
After the three properties have been shown, the seekers must make a decision. But first they must throw out one of the three properties. That done, they enter into some half-hearted, sometimes whiney, banter over the remaining two, culminating in the Miraculous Agreement. Yes they always agree on one or the other property. And act pretty pleased about it.
I’d fall out of my chair if a couple failed to agree on a house and, in fact, separated after an angry spat. Just ain’t going to happen. Even though you can sometimes sense the strain when, perhaps, only one half of the duo is following a dream of becoming an ex-pat ….
Anyhow, two or three months later the crew checks in. The chosen abode is appropriately personalized and the ex-pats are just flat out – happy. With their lives. With their new house or condo. With everything. … Just. So. Damned. Happy.
“House Hunters International” is like ex-pat catnip.
(Just for a change I’d like to see the film crew return to find a couple of ill-groomed retirees floating in a sea of beer bottles and pot, with every stick of furniture just as they left it. … You can’t tell me ex-pat retirement doesn’t have its dark side.)
But enough of that. Watch a few episodes and I promise you’ll be hooked, slipping into a phantasmagorical reverie of a life lived on the Left Bank, in a steamy Latin jungle, on a sun-dappled Caribbean beach, in a London flat, in an Amsterdam aerie, in a Thai retreat ….
So, here’s the show and the rules for the House Hunters International Drinking Game. Please, play responsibly and don’t abandon your home for an ex-pats life until you’ve sobered up:
- Every time a seeker says “Wow!” — take a drink. (Be careful. This one alone will put the most stalwart game players under the table quickly. There are a lot of “wows” – often warranted – on this show.
- Every time someone enters a room and says “Awesome!” — take a sip.
- Every time the camera cuts to a real estate agent tapping away on a laptop (usually after the second property has been shown) – take a drink.
- If the real estate agent is walking on a city sidewalk or a beach with cellphone to ear – take a drink.
- If the real estate agent makes a face filled with gastric discomfort after hearing the couple’s budget – take a drink.
- If the seekers insist on both a swimming pool and an ocean view – take a drink.
- If the seekers insist on an ocean view and swimming pool and ultimately pick a property that has neither – take a drink (and send one to the table where the real estate agent is sitting …)
- In fact, if any non-negotiable is abandoned by the end of the show – take a drink for each one.
- If the real estate agent confides to the TV audience that one or the other “will have to compromise” – take a drink.
- If the seekers insist on being close to the urban action, then complain about the street noise that rises up to the balcony – take a drink.
- If the husband stretches out on a bed – take a drink. Take a second drink if his feet hang out over the end of the bed.
- If the wife complains about the size of the kitchen or the bathroom – do not take a drink.
- If the husband complains about the size of the kitchen or bathroom – take a drink.
- If an objection to a house somehow feels contrived for the benefit of the narrative – you’ll know after a while — take a drink.
- If there are continuity issues – winterbound Vermonters with deep tans on their first day hunting for a Caribbean island apartment, for example – take a drink.
- If the couple decides to go out and buy a dog before they know where they will be living or if they have a job – take a drink.
- If either seeker is still wearing the same outfit by the time the third property is shown – take a drink.
- If the couple is walking and holding hands as they discuss the three properties – take a drink.
- If they high-five each other or kiss at the end of the selection process – take a drink.
- If they have no body contact at the end of the process – do not take a drink (and plan on snagging that property for yourself as soon as you can get to Chile or Australia or Wales…)
- If the couple goes over budget – take a drink.
- When someone in the same room says “I want to live there!” — take their drink away.
- If you actually guess which property the couple will select – take a big drink.
That last one happens less often than you would think. I mean, who knows what is really going on in their heads and how much money they really have to work with? In fact, there are all sorts of variables that just can’t be packed into a single program, making an accurate pick tricky.
That’s all part of the challenge. We have seen some fabulous — and fabulously affordable — properties on this show. Right along with the couples seeking a new home, we’ve said “wow” to charming spaces, artisan quality craftsmanship, breathtaking views and the low rents and mortgages.
The wow factor is pretty big. I mean, why would you travel halfway around the world to live in a ho-hum house in a blah-blah-blah community? Maybe if you are in a witness protection program. But not if you are going about the business of reshaping your life, controlling your destiny and launching into the next big adventure of your lifetime.
You want the “Wow!”
And I’ll drink to that.
PS: Any other rules come to mind? Post them in the comment section below!