There is something addicting about home improvement shows. HGTV can keep my wife and I propped lifelessly on the couch for hours. We Americans love to think about making our homes bigger, better, and more appealing (read: envy-inducing). But all of that time spent dreaming about improving our own houses can make us feel guilty, so we need a show like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition combines all of the best parts of a home improvement show with all of the best parts of a good human interest story. Ty Pennington and his crew choose some selfless family that is doing good things for other people, but are living in a rundown house (at least by suburban American standards). Typically, the poor living conditions have combined with other factors to provide stress, tension, and at least a small level of dysfunction within the family.
Enter Ty Pennington and his army of contractors and humanitarians. In a matter of days they send the family on the vacation of a lifetime, demolish part or all of the old house, and build a house that is guaranteed to be the best looking house on the block. Tears flow (on camera and at home) as Ty Pennington shows the family around the new house, pointing out the features that make this new house the perfect residence for this lovely family.
You would have to be a monster to dislike a show like this. And I’m not a monster. I love the show. Who doesn’t want to see a loveable family blessed with a new home?
But I do think that it’s important to analyze the worldview behind the show. Here’s an important question to ask of anything we see on TV: What is the gospel according to this show?
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition always starts with a problem (the equivalent of the biblical “fall”). Here is a lovely family that is doing everything right, but they are unable to thrive because their home is subpar. And how do we solve this problem (what is the savior)? By building them a bigger, better home that meets their needs and builds their confidence. It is the gospel of home improvement and lifestyle upgrade.
My favorite part of each show is when Ty Pennington—with all of the emotion of a soap opera star—shows the husband and wife the romantic master bedroom/bathroom that he has designed specifically to help them overcome the stress, tension, and mundanity that has been pulling their marriage apart. Tears abound as Ty, the family, and the viewer at home all realize simultaneously that yes, this specially designed master bed/bath will indeed solve all of their problems and allow them to live the American Dream.
Okay, I’m being dramatic, but I don’t think it’s inappropriate for the subject matter. As much as I love seeing people blessed with cool new homes, it’s important that we recognized that home improvement never saved anyone. The only hope for our broken families, strained marriages, and overworked lifestyles is Hope Himself, Jesus our Savior. Let’s enjoy the blessings that come, but let’s look to Jesus for salvation and hope.