I have a love-hate relationship with ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition. I watch it most weeks — though have taken to fast forwarding through some canned parts of the episode when I’m skipping commercials. This has been especially true this season when they’ve gone to a two-hour format. I don’t want to invest two hours on this.
I love the idea of a community coming together to help others in their community when they need a hand-up. I love the creativity demonstrated by all sorts of different aspects of the show. I love what at least seems like genuine expressions of compassion by the celebrity design team — I think I love this because there are moments when it seems that these people whose job it is to make us feel what we feel while watching them are actually caught up , deeply impacted, and maybe even permanently changed themselves.
My hate for the show (and that is probably a much stronger word than is accurate for some of the things I’ll list here — but then again, maybe it isn’t) is fairly focused.
One of the most often repeated phrases — besides the nearly iconic “move that bus” and “good morning ________ family” stuff that is part of the brand for this show — is “you deserve this…” While I get why they say that over and over, it’s such a limiting statement. In it is the implication that people have earned these gifts. These mansions of extravagant near-perfection. These places perfectly designed and given in exchange for public gratitude.
Sometimes the gifts we give each other — the sacrifices we make for to serve others — are reflections of a greater truth and a more real eternity. Sometimes they are more of a facsimile and substitute. It is the difference between being hope and salvation and pointing to hope and salvation.
I don’t think that the producers and others involved in this show sat around scheming how they could distract people from the real and eternal hope in Christ alone (and not Ty Pennington and his bullhorn), but it is possible they have done that.
I also know that ABC’s selection team (however that works) has often chosen to build homes and other facilities for families and organizations that are already messengers of real hope and, in that, have been used to extend the Gospel. There is no doubt in my mind that God has used this television show to glorify Himself — no matter what various ones who thought they were in control may have intended.
My other hate is that too often this great gifts proves unsustainable. Despite the solar panels and forgiven mortgages and generous funds provided to empower the family to maintain their new mansion, there are too many tragic stories to feel really good about this strategy. Maybe if people could have gotten some training in resource management before they were handed such an overwhelming (and mild-messing) resource?
I’ve watch most of the episodes — at least in fast forward. Like most fans of the show, I have favorite designers and enjoy seeing communities coming together. I do believe that the show did quite a lot of good along the way. I have loved the way it has rallied people to help each other and reminded communities that together we can do a whole lot more than individually to make the world a better place. Despite my negative sentiment about some aspects of this show, I am a fan.
My sadness comes, perhaps, when I see people think that “happily ever after” will follow and it won’t. My heart is saddened by those who are given more than they are equipped to manage and thereby set up for probable failure. And most of all, I am frustrated that once again the entertainment industry has found a way to take what should be hallmarks of the Church and exploit them into marks of corporations and superstars.
The 200th episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will air in mid January and is scheduled to be its last as an episodic series. There will be specials and reruns. Lots and lots of reruns.