HGTV has thrived for over twenty-five years with programs based upon the simplistic premise that every house in the US of A demands to be gutted, open-flowed, and subsequently trimmed out with rustic mantels, pickled floors, and media centers. Not to mention granite. Madagascar-size islands of granite. Your formula is genius: product placement that scratches the itch that every one of us still slumming in the doldrums of 2019’s Color of the Year. What was Metropolitan, really? At best: timid taupe. In reality: drab grey. Three years on, it’s so boring everyone in America pines to repaint. But I digress.
What HGTV needs is a fresh formula. A rebuttal to those astronomically profitable shows rutted in the identical plotline: churn our yearn for excitement into a crave for interior glitz that leads (inevitably) to demolition to create space, space, space for a bunch of new stuff, stuff, stuff so when the reveal unfolds, the wife cry tears of joy. Everything—except her blotchy face—looks fabulous as the camera pans.
HGTV should consider diversifying into that miniscule market niche of non-consumers. The contra-demographic. The sustainability audience aching for a net-zero dream.
Everything about Eco-Extreme flips the successful HGTV formula on its head. Start with the hosts. Forget another burly builder-type with a massive beard with his petite, bubbly designer wife. The hosts of Eco-Extreme will be Luis and Maria, the Fix-it gurus from Sesame Street. They may not be as young and photogenic as during their forty-four years on public television. And Luis is, in fact, dead. But resilience is all about bringing new purpose to life. The pair will recycle beautifully.
Every property Maria and the ghost of Luis renovate will reuse 100% of the materials already in place. What few fresh materials are required will be so locally sourced, a child can deliver them with a little red wagon, carefully protected by a biodegradable container. Nothing plastic will ever taint Eco-Extreme.
Eco-Extreme will also break new ground for HGTV by abandoning the climatic demolition scene currently embedded in each half hour. We will rekindle that ancient and treasured totem: the room. No more bowling alley wannabe’s where last night’s dirty dishes are in full view of the sofa and the Barcalounger and the dining table. Gone is the acoustical tug-of-war between the kitchen appliances and the television—every function will have its place, it won’t ooze into other spaces.
I realize that the demolition scene is an essential and dramatic moment in every HGTV renovation show. Eco-Extreme tackles demolition at a completely different scale. One that demands more subtle, nuanced camera work. No more action shots of hirsute guys yielding crowbars and axes. Instead, steady hands burnish 200 count sand paper over yellowed lacquer on natural ash woodwork. Imagine the television audiences’ gasp as the natural luster returns. Even more thrilling will be deleading an ornamental mantle with a dental pic. Bringing ancestral hardwood that has been encased in lead for over a hundred years back to life will make the audience swoon, despite the high-ventilation fans whirling to make this dangerous work safe to the white-suit encased artisans.
Eco-Extreme: Precious Edition embraces the notion that when a family purchases a heritage colonial, or a turreted Victorian, or an Arts & Crafts bungalow, that’s actually the style they want. They seek a delight that unfolds, room by room instead of blowing everything on a grand first impression that takes in front door to back yard in one grand sweep, leaving the occupants to wonder, the moment the cameras leave, whether Peggy Lee was right after all. Is That All There Is?