Friday, January 16, 2004


For most of us, television is an aural medium. That is, it is written to be listened to, and only occasionally glanced at. I never just "watch" television. I always have something else to read at hand, or else I am opening mail, and - do I even have to say it - the only time I watch television without my laptop on in front of me is at airport gates.

But, thanks to the latest hot genre of TV shows, I am watching television again. Closely. Like, I mean I have to sit there and watch every stupid little segment. And I love it. And so does just about everybody I know.

I'm talking of course about the rash of home design shows. As near as I can tell, it all started with me (and with the rest of the country, it seems) with Antiques Roadshow. But now, I practically live on HGTV, Discovery Channel and Learning Channel to watch Monster House, Surprised by Design, Designer's Challenge, Clean Sweep (oooh, baby!), and the favoritest of all, Trading Spaces. I don't watch any other show with the rapt attention of these shows, down to leaning in closer to see the colors and textures of the wall by the fireplace, and critically trying to decide if I woul d ever paint a larger than life flamingo on a bedroom wall.

My sister Val and I actually watched an entire day-long marathon of Clean Sweep over the holidays, ostensibly to "try and discern what is the appeal of these shows." Yeah right! It was sheer, gluttonous compulsion. "Feed me, Seymour!!!!"

Not sure what this is about. I think it might be the fact that - for my generation, which has had to pay tens of thousands of dollars just to get educated - home ownership has become the American Dream again. (For our boomer parents, who got to go to college for cheap, and who mostly inherited property from their Greatest Generation parents, the American Dream seems to have been something about doing whatever they felt like without ever getting stuck or pregnant...) Anyway, most of my twenty and thirty something friends can only dream about owning their own home -- a place defined by the fact that you can paint and tear down walls if you want.

I think some of this is also driven by the Gen X and Y attraction toward authentic community. The idea of remaking a home in which to live with one's family - oooh, what a rush - the stuff of Gen X fantasy?

No comments: