Too Much? The Reality of Real Estate
by Shawn Shimpach — University of Massachusetts - Amherst
February 26, 2007 – 11:00
Although both are subject to the volatilities of the economic market, sometimes television production and labor constraints collide with the reality of actual people’s lives. Sometimes all a cable outlet can do is pretend otherwise.
The U.S. cable channel HGTV continues to grow in popularity with a schedule of programs appealing to upscale viewers’ voyeuristic house lust and fantasies of the real estate market as reliable and rewarding. Such programs are produced under great pressure as they adhere to low budgets and very tight schedules. At the same time, they are aired because they offer interesting stories and characters compatible with HGTV’s commercial success. Given these strictures, what would happen if valuable time, labor, and money were spent installing hidden cameras, following characters, and editing hours of footage only to end with, well, Virginia?
This clip, from Buy Me, piles on the list of failures and indignities faced by would-be home seller Virginia and her elderly live-in mother. Offering a compelling story and an interesting character, to be sure, Virginia neglects minor home repairs, fires her agent, hosts failed open houses, loses her job, briefly becomes a realtor herself, and goes into debt. Narrative expectations suggest that such a crescendo of adversity will be followed by a satisfying dénouement involving Virginia and her mother living happily ever after. Certainly this must be what HGTV expects. How else to explain the graphic promoting the upcoming I Want That! Kitchens inserted over a scene of Virginia in her kitchen? Never mind that this scene has Virginia confessing that she has been suspended from her job after 14 years. In the end, Virginia, without money, job, or discernable plans, abandons her unsold home (and her mother in it) to jet off to Europe. This episode might undermine the premise of the series, indeed the premise of the entire network, but it does ring true. That is what realty and reality can be like.