Home and Garden Television
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with TV home shows ever since This Old House was the only choice. Back in those days, I was a contractor and felt the show didn’t reflect the time and budget constraints I faced every day. It never showed the host fielding phone calls at 10PM or 5AM, or sacrificing weekends and holidays to keep a job running smoothly, and it gave my customers unrealistic expectations that made my job harder. So, yeah, I resented that. Still, they did showcase some great projects that I would have enjoyed working on.
Then, to my surprise, Fine Homebuilding offered me a job, and in the course of events I ended up meeting Norm, and Tom, and Richard. And you know what? They seem like normal guys who know their trades. I liked them, and I was a little jealous. And while I could tell myself they just got lucky, the truth is there’s more to it than that. Recently, I’ve had some involvement with Fine Homebuilding’s web videos, particularly Building Skills. Doing this stuff on camera isn’t as easy as I thought – There’s a whole skillset that’s required to do it well.
Far better than I know the TOH crew, I know a few people whom you may have seen on other networks’ reality shows. They’re contractually forbidden to talk about their experiences, and wouldn’t even consent to being interviewed on background. Out of respect for that, I won’t mention the particular shows. But in casual conversations with them, I have gleaned one thing: It isn’t all glamour. It’s incredibly taxing work. Imagine being given, say, 48 hours to complete a remodeling job that normally would take weeks. Then imagine doing it while tripping over cameramen, key grips, designers, and producers. By the end of production, the people I know are ready for a week’s sleep.
Fine Homebuilding’s video program isn’t quite up to that level of intensity, although we work hard to produce high quality material. Everyone’s favorite uncle, Chuck Miller, takes the magazine’s perennial favorite column, Tips, live with his There’s a Better Way videos. And Chuck Bickford seems to be constantly on the road, getting real carpenters on tape for our Master Carpenter videos. Justin Fink and our video guy, Colin Russell, worked their tails off last summer shooting the construction of a passive house on Cape Cod. Now, summer on the Cape sounds pretty appealing, but these guys spent their time on a jobsite with a bunch of sweaty contractors. On the upside, whenever Justin went out to the Cape for a few days, I got to dog-sit FHB’s unofficial office pooch, Benson.