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Dorien Grey

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Blogs by Dorien Grey

The Joys of Misery
7/6/2009 3:10:42 AM
A glimpse at a popular TV "reality" show and our boundless gullibility.

(From Dorien Grey and Me, http://www.doriengreyandme.com)

There’s a program on ABC on Sunday nights called “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and I have watched it faithfully for the past few years. In each episode, a group of do-gooders with various decorating and carpentry skills sets out to save a worthy and needy family by giving them a brand new house, built in seven days.

There’s an awful lot of sobbing going on, first by the team of do-gooders as they watch a video made by the deserving family explaining why they need a new house, then by the recipients of the program’s largesse.

The do-gooders’ huge bus pulls up in front of the family’s current home shortly after dawn and the team tiptoes from the bus, goes up to the door and, with team leader Ty Pennington using a bullhorn (which he insists on screaming into throughout the program) yells out “Goooood Morning, Bltfsk Family!!”

Instantly (now, this is all coming as a total surprise to the family, who had no idea they were being chosen) mom, dad, grandma...who has been living with the family in a cot in the attic to help with the kids...and the six kids...one or more of whom generally have some sort of severe medical problem...come bursting through the front door, overcome with joy. They jump, they scream, they wave their arms, they hug the dogooder team, and Ty announces that not only are they to have a new house in seven days, but that the entire family is going off to some exotic vacation spot while the house is being built. They immediately get into a stretch limo (obviously none of them has to let anyone else know they’re going, and always keep their bags packed behind the door, just in case) and drive off.

Hey, I’m as gullible as the next guy and willing to overlook mountains of logic indicating that we’re being conned by these so-called “reality shows.” But I’m gullible, not brain-dead. The kicker for me in the most recent episode was when the family was sent off to “Paris, France”…lest anyone think they were going to Paris, Illinois. I could not help but be a tad impressed by the fact that a working class family living in Lincoln, Nebraska, all had current passports.

The minute the limo is out of site, an army of construction workers wearing matching sweatshirts marches down the street to demolish the house...which, one might assume, is full of the family’s belongings. But no matter; the house is razed in a matter of minutes, and construction begins. When and how the house plans were prepared, the materials ordered, the various permits obtained is left a bit vague. And while the builder inevitably and generously pays off the mortgage and generally throws in full college tuition for all the kids, how the recipients are going to maintain the place is left unanswered.

Now, most of these families live, understandably, in modest neighborhoods, yet rather than build the new behemoth in a more appropriate area, they construct a mansion never less than twice, and often three and four times, the size of the original on the original lot, and as a result the new place sticks out like a sore thumb among its neighbors—a fact which must go over well with the neighbors.
.
Each child gets his or her bedroom specifically designed to the kid’s interests. If two-year-old Sally likes fairies, her room is filled to the rafters with fairy themes, and tree houses and murals of fairies dancing, and.... That little Sally will probably shortly lose her fascination with fairies is of no matter. She’s going to be stuck with them until she goes off to college.

Suffice it to say the house is always…always…finished in seven days, thanks largely to Ty running around screaming at people through that damned bullhorn, and the family returns to stand on the far side of the dogooders’ bus which supposedly prevented them from having seen the house as they drove down the street approaching it. The moving of the bus evokes more screams of joy, more jumping up and down, more hugs, and lots more tears (but of joy, this time). We are all given a tour of the house, which would stand up favorably to the Taj Mahal, hear tales of the family’s undying gratitude, and the program ends with Ty, his voice throbbing with sincerity saying, "Well, I guess there's only one thing left to say..." long pause "...welcome home Insert-Name-Here family. Welcome home!" This is quite touching the first 386 times he says it, but after that a bit of the bloom goes off the rose.

I might suspect that the minute the dogooder team drives away, the family will put up a “for sale” sign and move into some place far more fitting their real needs and lifestyles.

Truly, as they say, “heart rendering.” I think I’ll watch the Weather Channel next week.

*****

There'll be another entry next Monday. I hope you'll come back. And if you have a moment, please stop by my website at http://www.doriengrey.com


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