Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Hypnotic Effects of HGTV

Is it just me, or is there something about HGTV that puts everyone who watches it regularly into a trancelike state? I'm not saying it's unpleasant or anything, but I've noticed that for many people, watching these shows is somewhat like eating potato chips -- you can't stop at just one. HGTV, for those of you who may have been living under a rock, is a cable TV network devoted to home and (increasingly less) gardening projects. Many of the programs feature remodeling of houses to sell, rearranging of existing furniture, determining a home's market value, etc. It's strange, but once you start watching these 30-minute programs, it's hard to stop.

Of course, there's a local interest factor. We live in Atlanta, and one of the programs features Trading Spaces designer Vern Yip, who lives here in the city. Often, we'll be able to pick out a house that we know is somewhere around here, simply by the appearance of the design elements and the landscaping. For Canadians, there's HGTV Canada, but here in the USA, we see some of its programming as well. Californians can marvel at what it takes to buy a basic small home in Marin County, and Chicagoans can imagine what it's like to live on top of the El tracks. There's something for everyone.

HGTV has a new commercial for itself which shows couples watching programs and playing along, with comments like "Yeah, I don't like house #2...why did they pick that?" We all find ourselves doing it. On New Year's Eve, we were hanging out with friends when they commented that they too leave the TV on HGTV for hours at a time, progressing steadily from one show to the next.

Personally, I think the people at HGTV have hit on something. Yes, TV offers plenty of crime dramas, second-rate comedy, and reality television, but HGTV is a strangely soothing alternative. You can turn it on, walk away for ten or twenty minutes, then either come back to a "fixed" house or a completely new program. It's like watching the soaps, but no one gets hurt, runs away, or is abducted by aliens. And now, you can even watch HGTV in high definition. Which is really nice, especially when you're looking at an old blue shag carpet that they're ripping up and you say to yourself, "Isn't that a potato chip I see stuck down in there?"