03/22/2013 09:05 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Mystery House Hunter Theater 3000

by guest blogger Renee James, essayist and blogger

Without even knowing it, we were lucky. We bought our first house back in the unenlightened age, the time I refer to as B.H.H. (Before House Hunters.) Our first home had one orange wall, a pineapple-yellow room, two smallish bedrooms with miniature closets, a tiny kitchen, no garage, no air-conditioning, almost no landscaping, and one--exactly one--bathroom. I'm not sure how we endured it. And let's not even talk about all the "quirks" still to be corrected in our second home.

I recently watched an episode of House Hunters in which the good news for the buyers was that the Tuscan-style house originally priced at $1.5 million had dropped to $1.27 mil and the owners would possibly entertain an offer of even less. This was clearly a troubled property waiting to be snapped up by savvy buyers! And yes, our couple strongly considered it for several reasons:

1. They could easily expand the home office.

2. The basement needed just a little work to make it feel more acceptable.

Wait just one minute. I admit that watching House Hunters is one of the most painful things I regularly do at home, coming in right after peeling Biore facial strips off my nose, but among the many things I couldn't figure out after watching this episode was how this couple shopping for a home in the Denver area (at a time when many people are facing prolonged unemployment, the corresponding drop in income, mounting bills, and possible foreclosure on their homes) could more or less be whining about the following aspects of the 7,000-square-foot home they had under consideration: Such a small home office! So cluttered! No one could work in here. Such mediocre landscaping! And finally...NO WORKOUT ROOM!

When the woman looked into the camera to announce this final oversight, she had an expression of outright dismay, coupled with a smidgen of "can you believe what they're asking for this dump?" I almost expected her to laugh; it was that ludicrous. On the plus side, the man was more flexible. He claimed he could actually picture hanging out in the (more gorgeous than many living rooms, trust me) basement. What a trooper!

I ask you, what planet do you come from if you plan to spend $1.27 million on a home and the most positive thing you can say about the property is that you could make over the basement?

The second thing that confounds me about this show on a regular basis is how the camera crew, producer, and director can tape this kind of pompous arrogance and not immediately run into one of the nine or so bathrooms scattered around the houses they typically visit and throw up.

Of course, this may all be nothing but a toxic blend of envy and jealousy, with a drop of "coveting my neighbor's goods," run amuck within me. I wish I were more sanguine about stuff like this. Maybe when I'm in the market for a $1 million-plus home, I will be.

But never let an opportunity for something creative and positive slip away, even when it's born of something very painful. So here's my new series idea for HGTV: Go ahead and air episodes of House Hunters, or my other favorite show, House Hunters International. Even more annoying, the home buyers' complaints in this series usually include such phrases as, "But the view of the lighthouse is so far to the left!" or "I just never thought we'd even consider a place across the road from the beach" or "Hmmm, just the one terra-cotta patio with the outdoor kitchen, the two balconies facing the water, and one dock? Oh, I don't know. Could we make this work for us, honey?"

One small request: Play the episodes on a big screen in a darkened theater. I'll watch them accompanied by a few amusing friends, and make caustic running commentary on it, à la Mystery Science Theater 3000.

I guarantee you that this show will do more to distract, entertain, and lift our spirits than any of the programs on HGTV--or coming out of DC--these days.


Renee A. James works at Rodale Inc. and also wrote an award-winning op-ed column for The Morning Call, the Allentown, PA newspaper, for almost 10 years. Her essays were included in the humor anthology, 101 Damnations': A Humorists' Tour of Personal Hells (Thomas Dunne Books, 2002), and are also found online at Jewish World Review and The Daily Caller. Her blog, It's Not Me, It's You, addresses topics that mystify her on a regular basis.

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