Recommendations: Week of 3/20/23
Totally real homes for totally real people
Reality television is infamous for its cattiness, drama, and scripted messiness. One lovely little corner stands out among the muck for its relative purity: home renovation and/or travel home porn. HGTV has long cornered the market on this slice of reality, but Netflix in particular has made a push to be a secondary source, just in case you don’t feel like paying for the elegantly-named “Warner Brothers Discovery” network. Here are a few of my favorites.
Instant Dream Home (Netflix): The schtick for this show is that the entire reno gets done in 12 hours, which is a truly insane thing to do. In fact, it’s so insane that they don’t actually do it. There’s a high level of BS on this show; many parts of the “12 hours” renovation couldn’t possibly have taken place in that time, several renos clearly require permitting that would have had to involve the homeowners’ sign-off, and the idea you would just submit your friend or sibling for a whole house renovation without their consent is just not a thing that happens. However, if you’re all good with the willing suspension of disbelief, this show can be a lot of fun. Everyone runs around like they’re on amphetamines and something always “goes terribly wrong but gets fixed just in time” but the renovation designs are nice and the characters are mostly likable. This is probably the show most like traditional HGTV shows, and although it would give any contractor a heart attack, it’s a fun watch all the same.
Motel Makeover (Netflix): Ok, first of all, this show is intensely annoying. It has the #girlboss #millenialpink #roseallday vibes that generally make me want to stick a fork in my eye. Prior to the show’s beginning, two millennial women decided that buying broken-down motels and renovating them on a shoestring budget was the way to girl boss passive income wealth and free rosé forever. But the thing is, they are wildly successful at it and maybe I want to do this with my life too now? This show chronicles the renovation of their second motel, which starts pre-COVID, then unintentionally becomes a kind of COVID documentary that brought me back to the days of lumber shortages and outdoor dining. If they didn’t work so hard, this would be unwatchable, but if you can overlook the truly insane levels of upspeak, this is a nice little weekend watch.
Stay Here (Netflix): Speaking of shows that make me want to change my profession, this show is about people who own rental properties that could use a lot of love. A designer and a marketing expert are here to help them get the most out of their rental units. I really like the way they crisscross the country helping out all kinds of people in all kinds of places with all kinds of houses. From a carriage house in Hudson to a 70s Palm Springs wonderland to a houseboat in Seattle, the team finds a way to make these places provide their owners with real income. I found myself appreciating the great rental units I have stayed in, as well as reflecting on the many weird ones I have encountered. All-in-all a very soothing experience that may make you either want to go on vacation or buy a rundown brownstone and renovate it.
The World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals (Netflix): This show does not involve any renovations, so it is a bit of a cuckoo on this list, but it connects nicely to my last recommendation. A team of three experts have somehow convinced Netflix to let them travel all over the world, staying in the most amazing rental properties in the world. For each destination or type of vacation (sometimes they do episodes focused on like “beach” etc) the stay in one budget property, one luxury property, and one unique property. So for instance, for the “America” episode they stay in a luxury Alaskan lodge and climb a mountain, for the budget stay they at a working cattle ranch and ride horses a bunch, and for the unique property they live that #vanlife in Moab, Utah. The camera work is beautiful on this show and the series makes an attempt to show you more than just a tourist’s view of whatever country they’re in, but that’s a bit of a losing game considering the remit of the show. If you like beautiful homes, though, this is absolutely the show for you. Even the budget rentals are clever and the team makes the most of every place they visit. Perhaps I need to change my profession to whatever it is they do, because they seem to be having the time of their lives.
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