Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Slate

June 15, 2012

Slate: Why it matters that 'House Hunters' is fake

From bait-and-switch marriage proposals to wig-pulling, cocktail-tossing catfights, it's safe to say we've grown accustomed to absurd contrivance and scripting in "reality" television. But who would expect such dramatic puppet-mastering on HGTV?

Apparently we all should have. Earlier this week on the website Hooked on Houses, former "House Hunters" participant Bobi Jensen called the show a sham. Jensen writes that the HGTV producers found her family's plan to turn their current home into a rental property "boring and overdone," and therefore crafted a narrative about their desperation for more square footage. What's more, producers only agreed to feature Jensen's family after they had bought their new house, forcing them to "tour" friends' houses that weren't even for sale to accommodate the trope of "Which one will they choose?"

This does not sound like the network ethic that HGTV general manager Kathleen Finch told Slate's June Thomas about in a February interview, during which she defended HGTV as "a network of journalistic storytelling, not dramatic storytelling," claiming that producers are "very conscious of not allowing any kind of fake drama."

That was then. This week HGTV issued a classic hedging statement, telling Entertainment Weekly that, yes, producers recruit families who have already done most of the house-hunting legwork to accommodate production time constraints, but that "because the stakes in real estate are so high, these homeowners always find themselves RIGHT back in the moment, experiencing the same emotions and reactions to these properties."

Surely any one of us could feign disappointment on takes 10, 11, or 12 when encountering laminate rather than hardwood floors, but HGTV's qualification doesn't begin to address Jensen's claim that the show films house tours of homes that are not even for sale.

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