television “magic”

It has been a wild week around here. You might even say extremely wild. You see, the television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has been filming an episode a mere 2 blocks from our house. We had no idea what we were in for!

If you are not familiar with the show, the premise is that a group of designers comes to the rescue of a needy family living in substandard housing. They “surprise” the family and whisk them off for a vacation while the team goes to work on making over the house. The conclusion of the team is always the same – this house can’t be saved. Let’s knock it down and start over!

The house came down on Saturday. If you listen closely in the video you can hear Fletcher say he feels sorry for the house. I tend to agree with him. It was definitely in need to work . . . but to just tear it down seemed, well, extreme. It makes for good television though, right?

At first I was enjoying the excitement of it all. The whole neighborhood came out to watch.

There were inconveniences, of course. The main thoroughfare through the neighborhood was closed to traffic during construction, sending far too many cars down streets far too small to handle them. Traffic was a nightmare and we saw more accidents and near misses in a week than one would hope to see in a year. And of course there was the noise – with construction progressing 24 hours a day, we didn’t get a lot of quality sleep. The first night was just the faint but almost constant beeping sound of trucks backing up – enough to be annoying but not to fully wake you up. The came the banging and hammering and shouting. But again, we can take it for a good cause, right?

Then people started to talk. And I have to tell you, it wasn’t all very nice. This is television masquerading as charity – but we can’t forget that it is television and it’s all about putting on a good show. The family getting the makeover sound like good people. They have a special needs child, he is a minister, they volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House where they lived for a time while their child was in the hospital. But rumor has it even they said there are families out there who are in more need, could benefit more from this assistance.

A friend who volunteered on the project said that while the original house was in rough shape, they were moving flat screen TVs out before the cameras went in.

Still, trying to look on the bright side . . . the few times I have watched the show I have wondered what happens after the camera crews leave. They always tear down some horrible shack and put up a huge, fancy new house in it’s place. But can the family afford the upkeep on the huge new house? What about taxes? Insurance? Heat and electricity? What happens if they can’t and they want to move? Who wants to buy a huge fancy house in a terrible neighborhood? So at first I was relieved that the house is in my neighborhood. Ardsley Park is a beautiful neighborhood full of big old houses, so as long as they didn’t pop up an ugly “McMansion” we felt sure there would be an ample market when the time came to put the house up for sale.

We didn’t expect this though. Not that it is a bad house, and the size is in keeping with the neighborhood, but a Victorian? And a lime green one at that?? It stands out like a sore thumb around here. A friend who works with the architect said that the show came to him and said they wanted a Victorian house and would not listen to concerns about sticking with the architectural integrity of the historic neighborhood. He tried. Oh well. (If we had an architectural review board, as they do in the actual Victorian District, this wouldn’t have been an issue.)

I’m still trying to keep my enthusiasm up . . . it’s getting harder, but I’m trying.

The big reveal was on Thursday. I took the kids after school and walked over to the site. We met friends, tried to find a good spot to watch the action and shout “Move that bus!” along with the rest of the crowd . . . but instead we were yelled at by not one but two of “Savannah’s finest.” For walking down the sidewalk in our own neighborhood. A police officer screamed at our children – 3 four year olds, a 6 year old and a 7 year old – like they were pointing guns at her. I’m not sure I have ever been spoken to in such a demeaning way. It was shocking and horrible and totally ruined the whole event. How am I supposed to teach my children to have respect for law enforcement when they see an officer acting with such a complete lack of respect for them?

I am totally over this whole experience. The barricades finally came down today, so we have our street back and can start to move on. No one is happy about the house or the way things were handled. I’m sure it will be exciting to see it on television – we have so many friends that were involved with the build in some capacity – but part of me dreads how our city and our neighborhood will be portrayed. I’m feeling very cynical about it all right now. I hope I am proven wrong. I hope the house will come to feel like a part of the neighborhood and that the family who lives there, whom none of us seem to know, will come to be part of the neighborhood as well.  I’m not convinced, but I’m trying to hold onto some hope and sense of charity. I’m really, really trying . . .

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One response to “television “magic”

  1. That is just so sad!

    The local one that was re-done here ended up facing foreclosure because it was so costly to upkeep.

    I agree, some of it is simply for television and it is hard not to feel discouraged. But I am glad you got your street back!

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