Well here’s a shocker: The popular HGTV program “Househunters International” makes stuff up.
Didn’t see that one coming . . . until about three years ago.
No, it is true.
You can read here about one couple who moved to Fiji and were living in their house for four months before the crew from “Househunters International” came along and said something like this:
HGTV: “Let’s go out and pretend to look for a house to live in. You can look at three, including the one you are already in and argue about which one you want. It will be fun!”
Couple: “Well . . . ”
HGTV: “And we’ll pay you $1,500 to be on the show.”
Maybe you knew this already.
Your first clue would be that every “Househunters International” show is almost exactly the same.
It often starts like this: A couple (usually a couple; could be a single woman with several large dogs) is moving to a foreign country and so must find a place to live. A smiling, helpful realtor speaking impeccable English will plumb the couple for their dream home wish list and financial situation.
With these two vital pieces of information in hand, the now-frowning realtor responds:
“Tsk . . . tsk . . . tsk. Hmmm.”
The couple sits wide-eyed with fear. Hey, being homeless in a foreign country is scary. Try it some time.
No. Don’t. I was just teasing.
Says the realtor, “We can find something. But it may not be easy. The home market is pretty active these days.”
Everywhere but in America, it seems, there is a shortage of housing in the typical HGTV couple’s price range.
So they go out and look at three houses. One of which may actually be in their price range and meet some of their dream criteria.
The other two? Hmph. You have to ask?
The couple immediately tosses out one.
Cut to commercial.
We’re back. And the couple is negotiating the pros and cons of the remaining two. Naturally they can’t agree. This is the drama sequence. How did their marriage last this long?
But they must pick one! And here is where the show gets real: They always pick the house they have been living in for months and months and months.
That’s where the integrity comes in. HGTV wants you to pick the house you are already living in, at the price you actually paid for it. Otherwise, it would be . . . what? . . . I think the word is “fiction.”
It happens here on Ambergris Caye all the time. I can recall three “Househunters International” shows shot here in the last two years in which a story had to be mostly staged because the people were already here and living in their house/condo.
At this point, it is important to understand one thing:
“Househunters International” is addictively entertaining. Like nearly every other reality TV show. Believe me when I say, if TV producers left reality shows up to reality, they would mostly be boring. And expensive. TV crews can’t wait around for days waiting for something to actually happen. I mean, this is not professional baseball.
In some countries, reality shows must do the unthinkable: reflect reality.
According to the writer of this piece, Nathaniel M. Lambert, “in England they have media laws that prohibit reality TV from making anything up and they have a similar show, but it’s completely reality.”
The result is that English house hunter stories drag on and on and often viewers don’t get to see which house is finally picked.
“Oh, look, there’s a football match on the telly. Let’s watch that instead.”
To put it in American vernacular, a real reality show would be like watching a 0-0 baseball game in the bottom of the 13th inning.
Lambert’s story offers other insights. I didn’t know, for example, that producers actually let you make up your own dialogue. They set up the situation and you, the couple, must slog your way out of the situational paper bag with your own verbiage.
When people are obviously faking an argument it can be painful viewing.
Sometimes it can be too real. Lambert wanted a house with a killer view and yard. His wife wanted another one, with a swimming pool. Lambert wanted to go for the TKO: The kids could drown in the pool! The director walked that one back a bit and they ended up arguing “killer view” versus “nice kitchen.”
Also, all housing prices are real, even the one for your own house which you pick in the end.
Also, and this is important, “Househunters” sometimes tries to do some good along the way, injecting a local charity into the storyline. For example, a Saga Humane Society fund-raiser here on Ambergris Caye shows up in one episode.
Cut to commercial.