Television: House Hunters

I don't know why I watch this show. I'm not looking to buy a house. The house I do have, I really like. But I also know what it's like to live someplace you detest.

I'd say it's the various locations that draw me in, but I'm just as interested in seeing episodes that take place in our area as anywhere else. Maybe you have to take it on the whole, that the interest comes from seeing different houses in a lot of places, seeing the various markets and architectural styles. I love House Hunters International as well, though I'm sick to death of places in Mexico and Peru and Australia. I guess there is such a thing as too much of one location.

There's that threshold of tolerance, too, for watching obnoxious people make demands about where they want to live and what kinds of homes they expect to have.

And then there's the production's need to create some kind of drama for the house hunt. This is usually done by pitting a couple against each other (SHE wants a big kitchen! but HE'S all about having a man cave! And what about the DOG???) . . . When there's a solo hunter, the drama often comes from a personal backstory, whether the person is a single parent, or moving far from home, or moving back home after being away, or getting some kind of job transfer, etc. Barring any of those avenues, the show falls back on the tried and true: He must get out of this apartment because it's driving him crazy! But can he find a house that will work for him, within his budget and close to his favorite restaurant? (Cue the incidental music.)

Meanwhile, the show's voice-over narration is borderline ridiculous. Who writes it, I wonder? Whoever it is has a tendency to misuse adjectives. I think they may be using a thesaurus and picking a word that has similar meaning to what they want to say, but in actual connotation is very different. Between that and the false sense of dramatic tension, the show is pretty silly as a whole. And yet I still watch it. And I know many other people equally addicted. Why?

It is, perhaps, in human nature to compare oneself to others. Reality programming as a whole allows this on a grand scale. Seeing others shop for houses makes us feel better (or worse) about our own abodes. Maybe it gives us ideas, inspires us to do things. Or on the flip side makes us complacent with ourselves and our lives.

Maybe we feel we're getting a kind of education. Sure, a lot of the "rules" on House Hunters are the same from show to show—managing expectations is the key to a successful house hunt. Versed viewers can sit back and say, "No way she's going to find three bedrooms, modern construction, in Virginia  for that budget." It's like The Price is Right, where we feel that our consumer knowledge is somehow rewarded or vindicated. And just as with The Price is Right, the more we watch House Hunters, the more educated about house hunting we become. We find ourselves participating vicariously. And our "education" is rewarded when we choose the "right" house. (Whether or not the actual house hunter on the show chooses the right house is always up for debate.)

I know I pay more attention to the show when the location is either one I'm personally familiar with or one  in which I'm particularly interested. For instance, I've lived in Boston and Texas and California, so those locations hold interest for me because I can feel even more "educated" while watching. Episodes located in London, where I hope to buy a flat at some point, or other European places I might consider living, capture my attention because I want to add to my store of information about those places.

The final reason I sometimes choose House Hunters over the dozens of other options after a long day is simply because I find it less taxing than narrative shows that require my full attention. I can sit down with soda and a snack, surf the Web, and only half acknowledge the presence of my television. House Hunters requires only as much from me as I'm willing to invest, which after a tough day is quite the relief.

Meanwhile, has anyone done a parody of this in which people are trying to shoot Hugh Laurie? That should have happened by now, right?

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