I’m about to open up a can of worms with this post, but let’s talk HGTV. Do you watch HGTV, readers? A post on Apartment Therapy on this very topic last week got me ruminating about the network: what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what I thought could be improved upon to appeal to new and former viewers alike.
What are your thoughts about HGTV? Let’s chat.
Back when my parents first subscribed to satellite television around 1995, I had aspirations of becoming an interior designer (as all precocious fifth graders do, right?) and immediately fell in love with HGTV (then called “Home and Garden Television”). During snow days or school vacations I’d watch shows like “Awesome Interiors” with Jennifer Convy, “Room by Room” with Matt and Shari and “Decorating Cents” with Joan Steffend, and learn about sewing or crafting or home repair. Those shows anchored a network that had a ‘roll-up-your-sleeves’, ‘think-outside-the-box’ approach that resonated with me--even at an early age. At the same time my parents enjoyed watching the network’s informative gardening programs, particularly “Gardening by the Yard”.
But that was a long time ago. Shows focused on decorating, DIY projects and gardening were shelved for round-the-clock real estate/renovation programming beginning in the mid-2000’s and it hasn’t stopped since. Even a major financial crisis that brought home buying and selling to a grinding halt could not dissuade the channel from rethinking its lineup. I’m confident when I say that shows like “House Hunters”—at least in small part—had something to do with the bloated sense of what was a ‘necessity’ in a house in the late 2000’s: granite countertops, a massive en suite bathroom, hardwood floors, etc. Would you agree? What’s more, the dominant programming on HGTV purports to be “reality” but is widely rumored to be scripted.
This shift in programming and overall focus of the network has resulted in one-time viewers now looking elsewhere for inspiration and information on decorating, gardening and DIYs—namely, to the internet. I can’t help but believe that the ever-increasing popularity of home design blogs can be traced back to the desire to fill the void left by HGTV’s massive shift in programming over the past five years.
The trouble is: HGTV is behind the eight ball when it comes to being a viable source for home and garden ideas. Ideas are what bring viewers back, not a stale lineup amounting to little more than fake home buying scenarios and down-to-the-studs renovations that few can actually afford to recreate.
Yet this post is meant to offer constructive criticism of HGTV and I would be wrong not to mention a few good shows they have produced in the recent past. “Flea Market Flip” (a personal favorite), “Secrets of a Stylist” (which needs to be renewed!), “Dear Genevieve” (love Genevieve!) and “Curb Appeal” (which is now sadly canceled—boo!) are some that come to mind. These shows emphasized second-hand shopping, fresh fabric and color combinations and working with what you have—a message that reflected the way more and more Americans were living in this post-financial meltdown world.
But, alas, not all hope is lost for HGTV. Here are five ways I'd like to see the channel reinvent itself:
Bring it back to the basics; then teach the basics:
Television shouldn't be the only place a person looks to learn a new skill, but it is a powerful medium for getting a message across to the masses. Why not teach something then? I, for one, would love to see an HGTV program that tackles the basics of decorating and gardening such as how to hang/remove wallpaper, how to properly upholster a chair or how to transplant a rose bush. Self-sufficient viewers are smarter viewers who will always come back for more.
Eliminate the drama manufactured for ratings:
If a program wants to demonstrate the stress and anxiety that comes with home buying, so be it; home buying and selling is stressful after all. But a quality program—without disingenuous drama—is more appealing than a sub-par show with lots of tense moments scripted for ratings.
Abandon the “two day deadline” formula:
The two day time constraint of most home improvement shows on the network really irks me. Anyone who has ever painted or caulked or laid tile knows that setting and drying time is essential for a job well done. Showing that a whole kitchen can be renovated in an evening’s time just makes viewers unrealistic and impatient.
Limit the marathons because too much of a good thing is a very bad thing:
Do I have to explain this? There is absolutely no need to air twelve straight hours of any show, no matter how good it is.
Tap into the existing cadre of talent from the home design and blog worlds:
I can’t claim to be a pro at show development or production, but I think HGTV is missing the boat by not mining the talent that has emerged from the world of home design and blogs. Many of these people have already built substantial followings on the internet, so why not capitalize on their popularity and skills? I’d love to see HGTV partner with people like Martha Stewart and her Crafts Department, Sherry and John Petersik, Kate Riley of Centsational Girl, Jenny Komenda, Jordan Ferney, Nate Berkus, and Eddie Ross for first-time scripted programs and Emily Henderson and Genevieve Gorder for the long haul. Appealing to a wide audience isn't easy but, c'mon, anything has to be better than “The Antonio Treatment”. Those rooms were like an Ed Hardy t-shirt come to life.
There you have them, my ideas for an HGTV that pushes all the right buttons and stops pushing all the wrong buttons.
Reading through the comments on the original Apartment Therapy post and on the HGTV.com message board, it appears that I'm not the only former viewer who is disappointed with the network's singular focus. That means it's your move, HGTV.
What are your thoughts on HGTV? Do you watch?
If not, what would make you tune in again?