Monday, June 24, 2013

Where Have You Gone, HGTV?

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.

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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”.
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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. 
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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 DepartmentSherry 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?

21 comments:

  1. I totally agree, with every single one of your points. I just don't watch HGTV anymore because of their drift into undending real estate. I have also noticed that there seems to be nothing happening on the website anymore. It seems like there are no shows newer than a year - or two - old.

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  2. I always say that the one thing I miss about not having cable (we use hulu plus and netflix through a playstation) is HGTV. But maybe there's nothing to miss! I think Desing Star is fun, and of course I did always love the constructive decorating shows--Design on a Dime, Find Your Style, and of course Secrets from a Stylist. I think the success of Emily Henderson points to HGTV finally having a host with her finger on the pulse of how people decorate NOW.

    But I don't mind House Hunters, either! Soemthing interesting about seeing what's out there and how markets differ across the country.

    Good food for thought today!

    Heather
    loveyourspace.blogspot.com

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  3. Amen. You're preaching to the choir, for sure. Of course, I felt really old when you said you were in 5th grade in 95 when I was graduating from college. Ouch. Seriously, though, I just don't get House Hunters, House Hunters Int'l, etc. In fact, it seems every time I switch over there that's what on - almost every time. I guess maybe it's the low overhead thing. There are no renovation costs, production costs, etc. - they're basically following people around while they look at properties. Real exciting stuff. But this isn't the real estate channel! Love Emily Henderson, of course, and Lara Spencer and Genevieve. However, I'm kind of over how everything has to be a competition - HGTV Star - or whatever it's called. Even flea market flip - they have to pick items to sell and flip and make the most profit. Personally, I don't like taking stuff and making it into other stuff - seems very hokey to me. And don't get me started on that new show Renovation Raiders where they redo spaces in 5 hours - absolutely crazy! Uggh. Thanks for this debate. Now, I need to go read the AT article.

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  4. Yup, totally agree. There are way too many real estate / house hunters shows. I do enjoy house hunters international, though. Martha Stewart would be great on HGTV. I loved her garden series.

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  5. Completely agree. The Property Brothers have yet ANOTHER show? Whatever, they're not horrible, but they're also not spectacularly great to the point where they need 3 different shows. I also get exhausted over the "House Hunters" and "Love it or List It" marathons. The manufactured drama on Love it or List It is nauseating. It would be a just fine show without the over-the-top scripted dramatics. Also.. HGTV Star drives me nuts. They send home the good designers and keep the ones that put out the weirdest stuff.

    Champagne Lifestyle on a Beer Budget

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  6. I agree. Disaster DIY is the only realistic show they have right now, in my opinion. I've stopped watching shows like Love It or List It, and Property Brothers because I know what's going to happen each episode -- the homeowners are completely oblivious as to how much it costs for their dream home; a budget is overrun for things that were not planned for (usually obvious things too -- what kind of contractor are you??), etc. It's the same every episode. And not everyone wants a Las Vegas lounge in their backyards either, Yard Crashers. A patio with plantings will suffice.

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  7. I guess I never really thought about it that deeply but there has definitely been a decrease in my HGTV-viewing. I'mnot really a fan of House Hunters shows and they seem to make up a large portion of their daily schedule. Like you, I would rather learn more of the process and not just a before and after in 2 days.

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  8. Ed Hardy t-shirt = best description ever. Totally agree about that once awesome network. I don't watch it at all anymore. Sarah Richardson is my favorite and they hardly ever show her. How I miss the days off a classic design show!

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  9. Totally agree! I was thinking that it should be called the "Love It or List It" network. . .I swear that's what's on 90 percent of the time. Candice Olsen was my favorite! Didn't watch a show of hers that I didn't love the finished room (s). Would love to see what some of the bloggers out there could bring to the network.

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  10. I couldn't agree more. I recently fell in love with HGTV in the last year, both the network and the magazine. But a lot of the programs they feature are at the very least misleading and at most downright deceiving when it comes to the time it takes to accomplish major overhauls in the home.

    Flea Market Flip, however...I could watch that all day. (And hint, hint: if you can never seem to catch it when it airs, all of the episodes are OnDemand!)

    <3 Jackie @ Let's Go Thrifting

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  11. Every time I turn to HGTV, House Hunters is on. Every time. Do they even have other shows?

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  12. You are so spot on! Why do I care about house hunting in some foreign country never mind the fact that it is so scripted to be unbelievable. I have been an avid HGTV watcher for sooooooo long but now find little to watch except for Sat. mornings. thank you

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  13. Wow, you totally voiced what I have been thinking and feeling for so long about this failing channel. I rarely watch anymore because I've gotten tired of the scripted shows and the focus on home buying over hands-on decorating. When I happen to catch the rare Sarah Richardson or Genevieve show I haven't already seen, I'm glued. And when I see Love It or List It, again, I'm completely turned off.

    Great post, Ashley. I hope someone somewhere in Knoxville is reading!!

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  14. I couldn't agree more!! House Hunters equals snooze fest. UGH. Lets get some more Sarah Richardson up in the house. Paleeze. Thank you so much for your sweet comment today - it absolutely made my day.

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  15. If I see Love it or List It again I'll scream, but wait there's Love It or List It Too - JOY! How I long for Dear Genevieve, Curb Appeal the Block (my favorite and had no idea it was cancelled), and Secrets of a Stylist - those were/are great great shows. What is interesting is how much energy HGTV has put into their magazine recently. I think they need to focus some of that same energy that they're putting into the magazine into their TV programming b/c the magazine is actually not bad and provides a lot of variety and real life inspiration.

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  16. Yes and YES! Could not ga r said it myself! They need to step it UP!

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  17. I would add Sarah Richardson and Candice Olson. I was not a huge fan of Emily Henderson, although she did grow on me a bit. Please never bring back the biker guy who won Design Star or the really dreadful David Bromstead in Miami show. Landscape design would be terrific.

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  18. Sadly I am now a FORMER HGTV viewer. The points you raise are all well put and I hope that HGTV can see the error of their ways. I yearn for the days when simple decorating ideas could be copied with such great results in my own home. Nothing on the station draws my viewership anymore its all so boring and dreadful.

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  19. I loved HGTV so much moved in with my boyfriend because he had cable! I had never been a TV watcher, and didn't even have a TV. But we happened to came across it while I was at his place one Saturday night, when they had all the design shows on. We were both hooked.

    I haven't watched in in years. YEARS. In all fairness, even before they went so heavy in to real estate shows, this 60s/70s design revival we're going through right now made me not want to watch as much of the design shows. I just don't like what's popular now.

    I found your blog searching for Awesome Interiors! :O) And I do think it would be amazing if they found some bloggers to partner with, and Martha, too. And I miss Kitty Bartholomew! Her show was so down to earth and realistic.

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  20. I haven't watched HGTV in years except for the Rose Bowl Parade. And that isn't even what it used to be when the regular garden hosts were on. It used to be fun around the holidays to see the various lighting/decorating shows. I always watched the Biltmore Estate & White House decorating shows. Even working full time, I could find them at a time convenient for me. I mainly liked the variety. Quilting, sewing, crafty stuff as well as decorating or redo for all income levels. Weekend gardening and workshop shows. Then there was If Walls Could Talk, etc. Househunters was fun once in a while, but all day long, no thanks!

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