13 February 2008

Lies and more lies from HGTV

Against my better judgement, I watched a new HGTV show this morning called "Color Splash." I recorded it at some point over the weekend, something in the description caught my eye. It seems the host was going to renovate a kitchen for somebody and I'm always curious to see what one of those shows does with a kitchen. Sometimes, I think I seek out irritation to prove to myself that I'm alive.

"Color Splash" didn't disappoint. David, the host, got off on the wrong foot by incorrectly identifying the wood species of the floor and the existing cabinetry. Beware anybody who claims to be a designer and can't identify a wood species by sight. Throw them out of the house immediately. Somebody who can't tell the difference between oak and birch is somebody who doesn't know what he's talking about.

Strike two came pretty quickly after that when the homeowner made the uninformed observation that modernism was cold and this was met with effusive agreement from the show host.

Modernism is not cold. It is un-ornamented and depends on textures and colors for warmth when warmth is the goal. The host had a prime opportunity to dispell the corollary myth that clutter makes a home feel warm. But then again, this is a television show. A television show that depends on sponsors to stay on the air. The sponsors need the viewers to buy the sponsors' wares and clutter up their houses. It makes sense, sort of, that a show host would encourage people to load up on crap they don't need. So since the show host passed up an opportunity to say what needed to be said, I will. Clutter doesn't add anything but clutter. Basket collections, fussy curtains and artifacts from our nation's agricultural past add nothing but distraction and noise to a room. Clear out the clutter and conquer the world I say.

Anyhow, as I watched this half hour program I was reminded again that this was meant to be entertainment. Most people watch this stuff and realize that what they're watching isn't a guide to what to do or to expect when they embark on a renovation of their own. I hope so anyhow. Again, due to the magic of television, a six week renovation was condensed miraculously into a half an hour and there were no cost overruns or scheduling problems. There couldn't be any cost overruns, because there was never any mention of cost to begin with.

What gets me about the shows on this network in particular is the way that the PR departments of their big sponsors make it into the banter of the shows' hosts. And this is where that network really rubs me the wrong way.

In the program I watched this morning, the show host went to a Home Depot and referred to it as a one-stop shop for all of his renovation needs. He talked to a cabinet guy in the Home Depot and they discussed how great Kraftmaid Cabinetry was. Then when he was specifying the counter top material, he needed "something more resilient than granite" because the homeowners cook a lot so he selected a Silestone counter. That was three obvious plugs in the span of about two minutes and they were masquerading as expert opinions. That really burns me. The patent untruth of this stuff can't be allowed to go on unchallenged.

Kraftmaid is the largest manufacturer of pre-made cabinetry in the US. It is known in the industry as "Crap made." It is not great, custom cabinetry. What it is is mass-produced and resonably priced. It's great for rental units and vacation homes. Period.

Home Depot is not a one-stop shop. Home Depot sells cheap stuff and that cheap stuff is sold to you by people who aren't trained to know the difference between price and value. Home Depot is a great place to buy framing lumber and tools. Home Depot is about the last place I'd go if I wanted a good light fixture or kitchen faucet.

Finally, Silestone is not more resilient than granite. Silestone is a major sponsor of that network. Manufactured stone, generically known as quartz, is pretty interesting stuff. It's strong, stain resistant and heat resistant. However, it's essentially terrazzo. If you like the look of terrazzo, then by all means get a Silestone counter. If you don't like how it looks, don't let some TV show or untrained cashier at a home center talk you into it with a bunch of corporate newspeak.

In a perverse way, the manner in which HGTV weaves the opinions of its sponsors into its content is almost admirable. Almost admirable because it's so seamless and reasonable-sounding. But corporate BS it is never the less. Silestone's parent corporation, Consentino, paid a lot of money for David to say what he did on that TV show this morning. Consentino has every right in the world to buy advertising. HGTV has every right in the world to sell airtime however it sees fit. BUT, as an audience member, please be aware of what's going on.

It is not 1985 and you're not watching the original runs of "This Old House." The rise of the home center invented a new market --the do-it-yourselfer. From the start, that was a pretty finite group of people. It seems that doing-it-yourself as a cultural phenomenon has crested and is starting to shrink. This is putting a squeeze on the home centers and the companies who stock their shelves. They have to get smarter about how they reach people. Product placement and editorial input on networks like HGTV makes sense if that's the goal. But every time a show host reads a line scripted by a sponsor, they lose a little more credibility.

If you feel compelled to watch that stuff, watch it for entertainment value. Because that's all it's worth.

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