wRanter.com

Gentle and not-so-gentle thoughts and musings from a Jewish, progressive, Canadian, inner-suburban, fortysomething, libertarian, recovering perfectionist, quasi-socialist husband, dad, basketball fan, writer and editor with a few opinions.

wRanter.com - Gentle and not-so-gentle thoughts and musings from a Jewish, progressive, Canadian, inner-suburban, fortysomething, libertarian, recovering perfectionist, quasi-socialist husband, dad, basketball fan, writer and editor with a few opinions.

Help! I’m addicted to real estate porn

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For reasons I can’t explain, I feel a need to redo my kitchen.

Which is odd, because I really like my kitchen.

Never mind that we renovated it 10 years ago when we moved into our house, or that (by design) it’s relatively neutral and timeless, neither overly stylish nor garishly unstylish.

It’s also made of solid wood and is so sturdy that it might just outlast us all.

Kitchen Cousins at wRanter.com

These dudes say orange is cool.

But it’s missing some stuff: granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and a cappuccino machine, to name a few obvious ones. Don’t ask me why I want these things. I don’t even like the look of stainless steel, and I don’t drink cappuccino. (To tell the truth, I can’t stand it.)

I also want orange cabinets, if only because Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri, a couple of Italian hunks from New Jersey known as the Kitchen Cousins, say it’s absolutely fabulous. It’s the colour of the moment.

So what it if it will be out of date next week? (Anyone out there have sable-coloured kitchen cabinetry? Come on, now. Fess up.)

I’d also like to tear out one of our bathrooms – nah, make that both of our main bathrooms. I’d replace the bathtubs with clawfoot soakers, and I’d install waterfall shower heads and cover everything in black marble tile. Who cares what it costs?

I’d also like a full wet bar in the basement – not because we drink hard liquor, or even beer on a regular basis, but because bars are back in style. I’d be willing to kick out our tenant to make room.

Failing all of that, I’d be happy to sell my overpriced Toronto home and see what kind of palatial digs the proceeds would get me in Louisville, Ky., or Raleigh, N.C., the kind I’ve seen on House Hunters.

Or how about Marrakesh, Morocco, as featured on House Hunters International? Do they have Hebrew schools there?

Actually, I don’t really want any of this stuff, and I definitely don’t need it. I also hate moving, not to mention the whole process of selling a home and dealing with real estate agents.

Yet something is eating away at me. It’s a yearning that I can’t explain.

The first step to getting help is acknowledging that you have a problem – a sickness even.

So I admit it: I’m addicted to real estate porn.

And all of a sudden, I hate my house.

It’s been a while coming.

For about two years, my wife and I have been gorging on the various home improvement and real estate offerings on HGTV Canada and the W network.

Mike Holmes at wRanter.com

What's he got that I don't?

It all started with her watching Holmes on Holmes. At a relatively young 48, contractor Mike Holmes is the straight-talking granddaddy of the home improvement and real estate genre, having been at it since 2001 and having starred on seven shows both in Canada and the United States. With his trademark steely squint, his tank-top shirt and his work overalls, he specializes in looking beefy while savaging the shoddy work of rogue contractors.

I think my wife secretly has a crush on him. He’s basically the anti-me – handy and muscular.

I suspect that thousands of other middle class women across Canada who watch these programs secretly lust after Holmes and guys like Bryan Baumler and Scott McGillivray. The middle-aged guy on the couch next to them might have a law degree or an MBA, but he can’t screw in a light bulb without an instruction book. Holmes embodies an aspect of masculinity they can only wish they’d find in their nebbish husbands.

Yet despite the danger of invidious comparison, I gradually joined my wife on the couch, out of curiousity, sheer laziness and an unwillingness to go to war every night over the remote control.

Slowly but surely, I was hooked, and we soon graduated to shows such as Property Brothers, Love It Or List It, Property Virgins, Leave it To Bryan, Selling New York, Holmes Inspection, Kitchen Cousins, Urban Suburban, Income Property, House Hunters and its bastard offspring House Hunters International.

It has evolved into a near-nightly ritual, leaving me puzzled as how we’ve become glued to shows that are designed to make viewers dissatisfied with whatever they have so they’ll go out and buy the stuff being hawked by their sponsors.

Mike Holmes, Scott McGillivray and Bryan Baumler at wRanter.com

It's pretty clear why women watch.

I have some theories.

I think from my wife’s point of view, it doesn’t hurt that most of these shows – not just the ones starring Holmes – are populated by hunky guys with senses of humour and a great set of, umm, tools.

Some, like the execrable Deck Wars, will throw a smattering of handy hot women into the mix, and Holmes sometimes has some female cuties on his crews (including his daughter), but they’re relatively rare. These shows are clearly marketed to a female demographic, and the beefcake is front and centre.

Another more prosaic reason for our addiction is that my wife and I have run out of other stuff to watch.

We used to follow a number of trashy shows, but they’ve all slowly fallen by the wayside. We’re too lazy to catch up on older stuff that we never really bought into in the first place (like the Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Dexter, Mad Men, etc.), and North American film-making seems to be experiencing a qualitative dry spell these days, so even Internet piracy holds little allure.

The only shows we still follow, now that CBC’s underrated Being Erica has been cancelled, are – no snickering – Grey’s Anatomy and Weeds. (I’m secure enough in my manhood to watch shows dominated by strong women – hey, I said no snickering.)

But there are other explanations for why we just can’t get enough. With our kids staying up later and later, it’s hard to commit time to regular episodic TV anymore. Real estate porn – sorry, lifestyle TV – is easy to tune in and tune out. It demands very little of the viewer. And we don’t have to time-shift late into the night to watch it. It’s either on or it isn’t. If it is, great. If it isn’t, who cares? One show is interchangeable with the other.

Property Brothers at wRanter.com

Are these guys making me ill?

But real estate porn is seemingly ubiquitous, and it’s usually available exactly when we crave it. With the proliferation of cable channels in the last 20 years, it’s the kind of cheap and cheerful pap that can fill hours and hours of time on a network’s schedule.

So we watch, and suddenly the beige walls that surround us seem so much beiger than they did in 2002, and our hand-me-down furniture seems so much dowdier than before.

We find ourselves wanting a new kitchen, new bathrooms and new furniture – for no good reason.

So far, our budget has survived relatively unscathed. We’ve repainted one wall and resanded and refinished out kitchen table by ourselves (actually, my wife did these things). We also splurged and bought a sectional couch, but mainly so we could put the old one in the basement with the kids’ Xbox and reclaim our den.

We might console ourselves by saying we’re not really violating the letter of the 10th commandment. The people on these shows might be fellow Canadians, but they aren’t actually our neigbours, so who cares  if we covet their stuff, or their houses? (Let’s not speak of all the women who swoon over Mike Holmes.)

Is there a 12-step program for any of this?

Never mind.

Love It Or List It is on as I type these words. The premise is that a grumpy designer with a British accent tries to renovate old houses to entice families to stay in their homes while a real estate agent shows them places that better suit their needs.

My wife is already watching. It’s five minutes into the show. If I don’t abruptly end this blog posting soon, I’m going to miss it entirely. I’m starting to feel edgy.

Like I said, I’m an addict.


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