Extreme Makeover: Foreclosure Edition

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Oh, here's a nice tale to warm the cockles during this holiday time. A family who was featured on ABC's sappier-than-Vermont series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition—in which needy people are blessed by the ABC/Sears gods with a new, shoddily-constructed house—is facing foreclosure on their reality mansion, because they can't afford the mortgage on the fully-loaded house. The Woffords of Encinitas, CA—dad's a chiropractor whose wife passed away so is raising eight kids himself—have been fighting with the banks for about two years trying to stay in their house. Now it looks as though that fight might be coming to an end. There's a last-ditch Hail Mary pass with a new bank in the works, but if that fails, the house will likely go up for auction.

Which just sucks. And reminds me why I hate this disingenuous, reckless show so much. The conceit of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition—this dumb blurry product-placement-crazed fantasy that people can just get a house and, boom, like that, have all their problems solved— isn't anywhere grounded in reality. If the sad story of the Woffords was the first of its kind to come out of the show, then it might just be a depressing little anomaly. But it's not! Several other families have faced financial problems after receiving ABC's dubious windfall. People on all sides of this show—the people who make it, the people who watch it, the people who agree to be on it—seem to be dumb or willfully ignorant to the fact that you really can't just get a house because you are nice and wish really hard for it.

I mean, look at what happened in this country with the whole sub-prime housing mushroom cloud. "Want a house but can't afford one? Here, buy one anyway!" It's a really reckless version of the American Dream to assume that just by virtue of wanting it (and of being an Amurr'can), we can all get the property of our dreams. Forget the way that ABC makes each family profusely thank them and Sears for all the wonderful free shit they just got (which is another reason to hate this show). That's not the true evil.

The real sin of the series is that preaches a dangerously foolish thing about finances. As Dr. Wofford himself laments, "A lot of people think when you get the house you get the mortgage. Well, you don't." Yup. ABC is cute enough to forget to tell you that they're not really giving people a house, they're building people a house on property that those same poor people, who are just as pour as they were before Ty and the crew showed up, must now pay for. It doesn't matter to ABC, because they just pack up the trucks and move onto the next string-plucked sob story. And, y'know, out of sight, out of mind. But there are still families left back there, dwelling in those money pits, long (well, not that long apparently) after the lights and action have frittered away.

A while back some people sued TLC over the shoddy craftsmanship of the hastily-redesigned rooms that were slapped together on Trading Spaces. But that was mostly for splinters and reconstruction costs. Now ABC has created an impossible situation that could leave people homeless. The show's altruism is at best just naive, and at worst cynically concerned with brand placement above the actual long-term welfare of a family.

What's next? Will some future show give people a baby they're incapable of raising because, aw, babies are cute and everyone's crying? It's a slippery slope, and all that.

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