Like any form of cinema, lots of work goes into creating the home improvement shows you see on HGTV, the television at your parents’ house or on mute in the auto-mechanic’s lobby. We’ve got many hands on deck — literally. Each episode requires a crew of construction experts, interior designers, people carrying around tape measures saying, “crown molding.” And then, there’s me, the person who scripts the conflict between the husband and wife stars of the show. It’s not a hard job, and no one has to do it, but nevertheless, I persist.
Before you ask: yes, all the conflict is 100% scripted. Despite the expert delivery from our husband and wife stars — from the fights over tile color to the tense discussions on open-plan layouts to the wife looking to camera, blinking “help me” with her eyes — it’s all written out beforehand. Those seemingly impromptu winces and the way the husband just… is? That’s the star power and chemistry steeped in marital resentment our leading couple has.
If you’ve seen even one televised pseudo-argument between a couple in real estate, you’ve seen my work. You’ll recognize me from such classics as “Husband loses iPhone in newly poured concrete,” "Wife feigns anger about ‘surprise’ basketball court,” or “Husband pretends to listen to wife talk for once.” The conflict I create is the perfect balance of forced and unnecessary. It’s for when vanilla has too much flavor, when mint is too spicy. Has The Great British Bake Off gotten too tense for your liking? Cozy up to a home renovation show, with the low-stakes conflict you crave.
I also dabble in creating longer story arcs over an entire season, sometimes throughout a whole series. Think of me when Husband jokes about being “goofball” while Wife forces a chuckle and looks longingly at some shiplap. Know that it is me telling Husband to bring a whole live cow into the newly-floored living room. “You said Kimberly really liked the farmhouse vibe,” I tell Husband to say while he literally slaps his knee. Wife will clean up cow shit while a laugh track plays, just as I have instructed her to. When Husband realizes the beams he cut won’t fit, and Wife cries gently over her MBA, that’s me, too.
Much of the conflict in these shows revolves around body language. Our viewer is smart, savvy, and most-likely is folding laundry or half-asleep while watching our show. Our plotlines always account for that. For example, I’ll suggest that Husband strut around flexing his soft arms in a college tee with the neck stretched out all gross, singing, “Do ya think I’m sexy?” Then, we’ll cut to Wife, who is in full hair, makeup, and three-inch heels while helping frame a house. “Yes,” Wife says, dead-eyed in a confessional. “He is still very hot to me.”
If you love shows like Fixer Upper, have made it through all 74 seasons of House Hunters and its spinoffs, or need something trivial to bring up with your extended family at the holidays, you’ll want to check out some upcoming projects I’m working on:
- Love It or Liszt It, a show where we set open house walk-throughs to mournful Hungarian piano compositions
- A reboot of The Big Comfy Couch where we give away a house to anyone who can get this big ass couch into a second-floor office
- A remake of The Parent Trap starring both Property Brothers talking to their third, non-property brother about whether he feels left out of the franchise. Dennis Quaid will be playing a sconce.
- Reruns of House Hunters but every TV in the home is playing the scene from The Big Short where Margot Robbie explains the housing bubble
- A game show where your inlaws tell you about kitchen islands and whoever attentively nods the most convincingly wins
As for the shows you already love to watch, who’s to say what will happen next week? Will Husband eat a messy burger on the new bathroom floor, while Wife has a secret affair with the shiplap? Will Husband try to do a dunk on the basketball court and get swallowed up by a surprise sinkhole? Will Wife get remarried to some shiplap in a hidden wine cellar, which is actually very good for resale value? Will they move the big bus and — uh oh — the house is gone? You’ll just have to tune in to find out.