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Who Has Better Home Improvement Shows: HGTV or PBS?

There's something less desperate -- almost absurdly genuine -- about public television's cooking and handyman shows.

Hannah Sternberg


May 14, 2014 - 9:00 am
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Apparently I’ve been receiving most of my cable channels in error, and my carrier graciously corrected the situation with a terse letter and an abrupt cutback in service. Among the fallen were Food Network and HGTV, which were pretty much all my roommate and I watched.

Since then, I’ve turned on our local PBS station many times when I want some background noise. I joked with a friend on Saturday that WETA hit me with a trio of shows to keep me on the couch happily catnapping — a Julia Child followed by two! America’s Test Kitchens — and she was lucky they didn’t air an episode of This Old House right after, or I would never have dragged myself out of the house to hang out.

All those public television shows bring back strong memories of childhood, when that was pretty much all we were allowed to watch. I started watching out of nostalgia, but I kept watching because…well, it was refreshing to watch a cooking show that was actually mostly about cooking, and not the host’s oversized personality. There’s something less desperate — almost absurdly genuine — about PBS cooking and home improvement shows.

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I love your astute observation. Instinctively, one would presume the "non" profit shows would be more altruistic than the "profit" oriented shows. As a part time finish carpenter for 35 years, I love watching anything that builds. But there is a WIDE range of what passes as a DIY show. The gold standard is "This Old House" and the newer, "Ask This Old House". I watch almost everything offered, either through recording, or when broadcast. The key here is what the final goal of the show is, to state the obvious. Watching "Big Bold Builds" for example on the Biography channel (???) is a drama, not a learning experience. There is no attempt to teach the DIYer anything. On the other hand, Hometime is one of the best, and shows up all over TV. It was initially produced for "non" profit channels, but shows up everywhere. All that notwithstanding, the general public does not realize just how good Tommy, Norm, and gang really are. They are very good at what they do, AND they are excellent at showing how they do it. That is not easy to do, and even harder to find someone who can. That shows up when they invite guest trades in for a one off. I enjoy it far more when they actually do the work, as in the project that just finished, as opposed to the ones where they just show up and highlight certain elements. In the end, however, This Old House and Ask This old House two of the best to be broadcast. And it will a long time before another team like that can/will be assembled.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
On the cooking shows, pretty much agree with you. The last good cooking show on Food Network was "Good Eats". Create TV, a "PBS Aggregator" has some great cooking shows.

As far as home improvement/DIY shows go, I'm not completely in agreement with you. While the HGTV/DIY shows do have too much drama and not enough technique, they also deal with normal situations. Two problems I've always had with TOH are it's relentless focus on the Northeast (understandable, but still annoying), and the fact that the majority of the homes/projects are beyond the budget of the middle class. Upper middle class/rich is their realm, not mine.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
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