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TV Preview: House makeover show nails down spot in prime time

Saturday, February 14, 2004


By Gretchen McKay

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Thanks to his sexy six-pack abs, his easygoing, surfer-boy charm and maybe his woodworking skills, carpenter Ty Pennington helped make "Trading Spaces" the first breakout home makeover show.

Bpb D'Amico, ABC
Carpenter Ty Pennington is ready to take on the latest reality TV project.

Click photo for larger image.


When: 8 p.m. tomorrow on ABC
Starring: Ty Pennington, Paul DiMeo, Tracy Hutson, Michael Moloney, Constance Ramos and Preston Sharp.

But what if you don't have cable?

You're in luck. Pennington makes the jump to prime time tomorrow night as host of ABC's new reality show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

It's a spin-off of ABC's hit "Extreme Makeover," which gives two contestants a whole new look with plastic surgery and cosmetic dentistry. But this version is basically a home show on steroids. It has all the elements of its cable brethren, but in spades.

It also has a bigger budget. The "surprise renovation of their dreams" takes seven days instead of a weekend and involves not just one room but the entire house, facade and landscaping included. As a result, it's more fantasy than reality.

The show aired as a special last December and did so well in the ratings that producers decided to make it a weekly series.

The hourlong show steals its basic premise from The Discovery Channel's "Surprise by Design," in which the show's guest gets to surprise a deserving loved one with a makeover of one room in his or her house. The dad in this episode was shipped off to serve in Iraq just two months after buying the California fixer-up. Mom is left alone with their three sons and little money for improvements.

The show also borrows from Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," albeit without the raucous gay undertones. As in that show, the makeover is facilitated by a team of five designers who each has his own specialty. Designer Michael Moloney, for example, tackles interiors and "glamour," while bad boy Preston Sharp is charged with exteriors and "big ideas."

There are also shades of "Trading Spaces" in that tempers occasionally flare and the designers do pretty much what they want without any apparent input from the homeowners. One of the biggest changes: Upon seeing the home's red clay tile roof, the team decides the two-story contemporary would really look better as a Spanish hacienda.

In real life, such a major renovation would take several months and require either winning the lottery or a hefty second mortgage. (The makeover includes all new furniture as well as a gourmet kitchen and a baseball field in the backyard.) But Pennington and the design team have the benefit of more than 100 workmen and countless neighbors.

If you're hoping to catch a glimpse of the chiseled bod Pennington is so famous for, tough luck. Though carpentry's poster boy still wears that sexy little soul patch and spiky surfer hair, his new role as team leader means he's gotta get serious -- and stay clothed.

You're similarly out of luck if you're looking for practical advice on how to do your own makeover, as the bulk of the work is done off camera. (You do get to see them ripping down walls, which is always a blast.) And while the designers occasionally complain that an ill-conceived exterior medallion cost them "hundreds of dollars," there's no actual talk about budget, which must have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But if you love seeing someone else's fantasy fulfilled and are a sucker for anything warm and fuzzy and for emotional reunions, well, you're in for an entertaining hour. You might even need a hanky.

Can the Faux Fab Five overcome their personal differences and come together as a group? Will Pennington finish the boys' bathroom in time? And will the family, who was sent off on a Disney vacation during the weeklong renovation, be thrilled with their Spanish makeover?

My guess is yes.

Gretchen McKay covers homes and real estate for the Post-Gazette. She can be reached at or 412-761-4670.

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