TV Review: Is ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ too extreme?

ExplosionSunday evening, after watching the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" team blow up a house with a radon issue, I began thinking about the whole concept of the show.

When the series began in 2003, I thought the idea was to give houses a makeover. But as I would learn, it’s really about annihilating the old house, as violently as possible it seems, and then putting up something completely new.

No matter what the problem — mold, radon, lead paint — the solution is the same: raze the house.

I can’t help but be happy for the folks who got a new home, but I wonder if the show gives the wrong message to the rest of us. What if we have mold, radon or lead paint? Should we dissolve in tears in front of a video camera in hopes the "EM: HE" people will save us?

Or should we find a way to fix what’s wrong, to prevent radon from getting into the house, to solve the moisture and ventilation problems causing mold? I believe so.

Members of the National Paint & Coatings Assn. had similar thoughts recently. In reaction to a May 4 show that focused on the dangers of lead paint, the association president, J. Andrew Doyle, wrote a letter to the show that said, in part:

"The misconceptions conveyed during the show were so glaring that they surely warrant a broadcast and web site correction prior to airing your next episode, so as to avert putting millions of viewers at risk.

"First, the show gave the impression that any home containing lead paint would require total removal of lead paint from all surfaces before the home could be safe. This absolutely is not true in the majority of cases. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledges that intact lead-based paint is not a hazard, when preventive maintenance such as paint stabilization or repainting is properly done. In such cases, lead cannot ‘seep through 20 layers of paint’ as show host Ty Pennington claimed!"

Plus, the show’s team made a big deal of scooping up several feet of soil, which, according to Doyle, is not a typically required precaution.

I contacted "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" to get a reaction to this letter, but did not get a reply. The whole issue got pushed to the back of my mind until Sunday, when I saw the house with radon gas being blown up (the show was a repeat).

So I’m wondering: Is "Extreme Makeover" too extreme? Would it not be in our best interest to understand some of the alternatives to a tear-down? Wouldn’t it be responsible for this show to at least mention some alternatives?

With the economy and home prices still in the toilet, most of us are not moving anytime soon. I’d like to think we can fix the things that are wrong with our homes to make them safer.

Because here’s the big news: No matter what the problem with your home, chances are that the "Extreme Makeover" team is not coming to the rescue.

What do you think? Is the show too extreme? Or does it get a pass because it’s "just" entertainment?

(Photo: Turbo Squid)

2 Comments on TV Review: Is ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ too extreme?

  1. CR

    Older homes are built better and with more dimensionally stable timber.
    It breaks my heart to see what gets demolished.
    The timber and fixtures, not to mention flooring, windows, doors etc.
    I could sure use a set of newer windows in our own home but can’t afford it.
    It would be nice if there was a recycling yard to browse salvaged items or a place where local notices are posted that allow placing dibs on certain items when a home is demolished.
    When I worked in demo we destroyed entire wings of mansions with nothing wrong with them and obviously newer amenities.
    These were ripped out to suit the new owners.
    I salvaged many items like in wall Bose speakers and remote operated light switches but had no room or way to haul the larger stuff.
    I think it would send a better message to go into these homes to be destroyed and salvage what they can and recycle the wiring and plumbing. NOT blow it up with dynamite.

  2. Stephanie

    It’s far too extreme, in so many ways. When did “makeover” and “obliteration” become synonymous?
    Am I alone in wondering how long these new homes will actually last? When an entire house is built, painted, finished and furnished in just two weeks’ time, seriously, how great can the construction quality be? Are these families soon to be saddled with yet another crumbling wreck?