A crew from Beazer Homes built a house on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition back in 2005.
A crew from Beazer Homes built a house on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition back in 2005.

We report this week plans on HGTV's part to resurrect a once-wildly-popular primetime TV home renovation series that put scores of U.S. home builders around the country into a shining national publicity spotlight, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. HGTV plans to produce 10 new installments to run "next year," and it has acquired rights to re-run 100 of the feel-good 2004 to 2012 series episodes.

“This is a big win for HGTV and we can’t wait to put our stamp on it,” said Kathleen Finch, chief lifestyle brands officer, Discovery Inc., the parent company of HGTV. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was must-see viewing for years because it combined moving stories of families and communities with life-changing home renovations. It’s the type of program that taps into every emotion and it’s the reason it was so popular with everyone in America.”

For some, however, the news hit like a flashback to an acid trip that went bad, carrying with it freshly-dredged memory of much of the feverish devil-may-care attitude that was all wrong with the period leading into the last housing crash.

No doubt, the hour-long reality-show formula tugs at the heart-strings and makes for multi-Kleenex TV for anyone with a shred of emotion. Too, the intentions of the show's producer Endemol Shine USA seem well-placed, seeing to it that its applicant-families are well-deserving, and that they get all the support possible to have a shot at prospering in their newly-designed and renovated habitats.

Still, the realities of this reality show cast at least some of our audiences into throes of anxiety for a few reasons, one of them being the inescapably strong associations of the show with the insanity, recklessness, and pain of the Great Recession.

This note, from a trusted executive, points out two of the big concerns from a home building firm's perspective.

" I shuddered a bit when I saw that Extreme Makeover is coming back... OMG we spent so much time and so much money on that. I remember advocating at the time, unsuccessfully (obviously!) to take that money and build 20 Habitat houses instead.

I recall that a couple of years later the home went in to foreclosure. It was all over the news in Atlanta at that time. I just looked up the house on Zillow to see what ever happened with it, and it’s back in foreclosure again! It was a huge, expensive, fancy home. On Zillow it shows that all the houses around it, on that street, are valued around $120,000-ish, even today, 14 years later.

... [Execs] from Centex said that the home that Centex did for the show also ended up in foreclosure.

It will be interesting to see how many builders they can get to sign up for this new show. Virtually every large builder participated last time around and there are a lot of folks still in the business with memories from the first time.

Here, and here, and here, are stories of coverage of the show's projects that led to a common outcome: foreclosure. More than a few families who entered the program as struggling applicants for a new home could not, or chose not to sustain the home as a going concern. Here's what we think of as a good, bad, ugly analysis of how the show worked, didn't work, and, in some cases, damaged one of the most basic of currencies any of us trades in: trust.

Another note came in from a Florida-based contractor who feels that the TV program's efforts to repair and build dreams in actually only serve to promote a fantasy view of the real-world of work, and materials, and building process, and does nothing to illustrate the true value of the way quality work on people's homes gets done. He writes:

I believe that across the board every builder that I know does not appreciate these programs because of their unrealistic representation of the construction industry. Furthermore I know many tradespeople that have assisted in Extreme Makeover projects in the past and went away feeling cheated and with they were never involved. I feel strongly that our industry needs to work on ways to educate the public that the majority of these programs are (entertainment at best). All too often the timelines and the budgets are not realistic.

It's our view that an opportunity to showcase the good hearts and humanitarian efforts of builders, manufacturers, materials suppliers, financial and legal partners, etc. and other players in this most noble of professions is a good thing.

As well, we don't question the good intentions of the people--producers, sponsors, and cast members--who make this show of family's plights and a concerted blitz of well-meaning pros jumping to try to solve them.

Too, it's true that some fair number of any humanitarian efforts, charitable causes, heartfelt gifts of time, and energy, and money to those in need will go for naught. Down the drain. A waste of goodwill, trust, not to mention time and money.

We can say this with assurance--for most builders and their partners--marketing, public relations, customer sales, even team-building exercise efforts, etc. can be put to better use than to imagine 12 million viewers see your company's name flash for a moment in the credit list of this program. We believe Extreme Makeover may be compelling TV programming, but for builders, contractors, and other partners who invest real value in the initiatives, it served another time and place.

We would have imagined it as an iconic example of a "lesson learned" from home building's past missteps. But it also seems to be the nature of the home building business that there remain many "lessons unlearned." Will this be one of those?