Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Extreme Makeover: Emotional Exploitation Edition

I've always felt uneasy about not liking Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

It goes beyond my distaste for network TV in general and the so-called "reality" TV in particular. I mean, it's easy to hate fake reality shows with amateur actors/attention whores as "contestants" who take direction from lame-ass producers trying to convince us that what we're seeing is totally spontaneous.

The problem with Extreme Makeover is that the actual work they do is good. They identify people who have had a rough go of it and, essentially, build a luxury house for them free of charge.

Good works, right? What could be a better motivation than to help those who are down on their luck?

Except that’s not the motivation.

The motivation is to use a sad story to manipulate the viewing public into watching an hour’s worth of advertising couched in melodrama.

But, you say, that’s what every television program does. And for the most part you’re right. Nearly every program, even sports, attempts to manipulate the emotions of the viewers to get them to keep viewing in order to see the messages of the advertisers.

Then again, most programs (sucky as they are) pay actors and writers to come up with increasingly implausible situations to tug our increasingly jaded heartstrings. In some ways, that seems more honest than the “reality” type shows because everybody – producers, writers, actors and audience – are aware of just what’s going on.

Extreme Makeover, on the other hand, is a bit more insidious. They find a real world tearjerker story and use poignant pauses and emotional music to amplify the emotion.

What could be more gripping than a Marine veteran returning home missing a leg to a house with a leaking roof and drafty windows and, oh by the away, his wife left him and his four kids.

This is a real world tragedy. It requires no emotional amplification and frankly I’m a little offended at ABC for exploiting our neighbors like this. The one saving grace, as I stated before, is that our neighbors are getting some help they haven’t received from our community.

So I guess it comes down to whether ABC’s exploitative motivation cancels out the good that is done to the families in need.

The answer is no.

But I still won’t watch Extreme Makeover or the other “reality” shows because I have a huge pet peeve against people trying to manipulate me.

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  1. Well, I'm glad there's at least one other person who has qualms about the show.

    Add one more: I worry about what happens to the family of the week after ABC is gone. Now they're sitting in a zillion dollar house which a property tax bill and insurance costs which just tripled, but without the wherewithal to maintain their newly achieved lifestyle. Does ABC intend to come back and bid on the courthouse steps when the house is sold for back taxes? Now there's a tear jerking story.


  2. So you don't love New York?

  3. Mickey Mouse just died a little inside.

  4. I'm also not feeling the EM:HE love. I ranted ad nauseum last time they rolled into town for Extreme Makeover: Welfare Edition.

  5. The first year I cried like a baby, the second shed a few tears and now there are some people, who quite frankly, I don't believe are all that needy. I read about one recently where the owner earns $100k/year and her husband earns $60k. I don't watch it anymore.

  6. "We're going to take you out of the crappy, cramped, piece of shit house that you can ACTUALLY afford, and put you into a magnificent, huge, expensive, gigantor house that you would never be able to afford in your wildest dreams! Good luck paying the taxes! See ya!"

    Self-serving, ratings-boosting propagandistic, tear jerking, manipulative bullshit.

    Ther is a reason poor people can't afford big, huge, custom-built, modern houses.

    I'd be a lot more sympathetic if the "Extreme Makeover" included a property tax abatement.

  7. Yeah, I was pissed when they did the episode with the family of the little girl who had just finished treatment for her cancer. I mean, good God! The girl lived! Do you have to keep focusing on the bad shit that happened to her? Why not talk about how wonderful it is that she survived and had a family that supported her instead of just getting them bogged down with this big house that doesn't fit their lifestyle at all?

    My suspicion is that the home building is just a pretext for gawking at how awful some people's lives are because after looking at that, I mean, can't we all just feel so much better about our pathetic lives? Ugh!!

  8. another pretext of the show is pimping business for the home remodel/decorating/flat screen TV in every room industry... and when do they air the "Five Years Later: How Thrashed is the House Now?" episode? Love to see how people crap up the cool stuff they got...


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