The folks over at The Smoking Gun have come across this creepy email from the folks behind ABC’s very popular heart-string yanking show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The email details what the producers are hoping to find in the way of needy families for the next season of the show:
Based on the ABC e-mail, it appears that victims of hate crimes and violent home invasions and families coping with the loss a child killed by a drunk driver make for good television. And the show would also absolutely love to feature those battling skin cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and muscular dystrophy. Oh, and families with multiple children with Down Syndrome would be ideal, whether the kids are “either adopted or biological,” the e-mail notes. And, shooting the moon, the program’s “family casting director,” Charisse Simonian, would love to locate a kid suffering from Progeria, the rare condition that causes rapid aging in a child (for those unaware of Progeria, the ABC e-mail helpfully describes it as “aka ‘little old man disease.’”) As if that terrible affliction weren’t enough, Simonian is also on the hunt for a child with congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis. “This is where kids cannot feel any physical pain,” she notes. But the hunt for a young victim—who will likely die before 30—will not be easy. “There are 17 known cases in US,” she writes, before chirpily adding, “let me know if one is in your town!” Such spirit in the face of tragedy.
I don’t know if any of you folks have watched this show as we tend to run high in the cynicism demographic around here, but I’ve seen a number of episodes thanks to my mother-in-law who enjoys it quite a bit. Not an episode goes by that several of the designers/builders on the show aren’t choking up over how brave/wonderful/selfless/etcetera the parents/uncle/head of household happens to be because they’ve been through so much/put their disadvantaged kids ahead of themselves/pick whatever selfless act you can think of to add in here such that they’re living in a home that’s woefully inadequate for their needs. It adds up to a shit load of melodrama on a weekly basis that could be deadly if they ever decided to run an all-day marathon of the show.
That said, they do build some pretty wicked cool houses of the sort that makes you wonder how the owners can afford the taxes on the damned things once the crew packs up and goes home.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that the people who are the beneficiaries of all this emotionally manipulative television crafting aren’t deserving of all the attention, I’m just saying that the producers could cut back a bit on all the gushing they do and still put out some compelling shows. A telling sign of this simple fact is that my mother-in-law, who is easily one of the more upbeat and optimistic people I know, actually agreed with me the other night when I said I’d enjoy the show a lot more if there was less time spent carrying on about how deserving the family was and more time spent showing off all the cool shit they’ve built into the house. Which is, likely, why a lot of folks tune in. We already know you’ve picked a deserving family (or we’re willing to assume you’ve done your best at it) so we’re primarily interested in seeing the gee-whiz stuff that we wish we had in our own homes, but don’t have enough tragedy in our lives to get that kind of attention from ABC.
Speaking of which, if you ask me my in-laws are easily as deserving as any of the folks I’ve seen on the show. I won’t bother to go into all the reasons why I think this is so, but believe me when I say that they’ve been putting others ahead of themselves for a long time and not just in regards to their immediate families such that the house could use quite a few repairs of the tear-the-whole-damed-thing-down-and-start-over variety. I’ve even considered writing in to the folks at Extreme Makeover and suggesting they consider them for a show, at least until I saw the creepy email I linked to above. Honestly they’re no where near as bad off as what the producers seem to be looking for and the email hints that the next season will be even more ramped up on the melodrama scale than the past seasons, which means I’ll probably only join my mother-in-law to watch the show near the very end when they show off how cool the house is.
If you like your shows with tons of tear-jerking emotionally overloaded scenes of deliriously happy people being given homes most of us can only ever dream of owning then this email should have you pretty excited. For folks like me it will probable make you more than a little uncomfortable watching the show at all. Which is kind of a shame, because it is doing some good out there in the world and it would be a loss if it ended up driving folks away due to being too exploitative. Cut back a bit on the drama and spread the good fortune around to more folks so you at least maintain the illusion that your average poor slob sitting at home might someday get a visit from Ty and the gang and you’ll have a long running show.