Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Extreme Home Do-Over

By now, most of you should have heard the news about the Atlanta family who got a new house from the ABC show "Extreme Home Makeover" in 2005.

Some 1,800 people helped rebuild a house that was falling apart into a $450,000 mini-mansion, complete with new furnishings and appliances - the show's largest-ever project to that point. In addition, the family was given enough money to pay taxes on the place for the next 25 years as well as a college scholarship fund for the family's three kids.

But the feel-good story turned into a nightmare earlier this week when Atlanta news organizations found out the family squandered the money and the house on a loan for a construction business that didn't work out. The bank will foreclose on the house next week and put it up for public auction.

The family has been ripped among the message boards and in the press for squandering what should have been a windfall. To many people, this was the equivalent of winning millions in the lottery only to end up destitute a few years later. It was frustrating to the many people who donated time and money to help this particular family out, when many other families might have been more appreciative and smart.

It's frustrating to people who see someone squander a gift, when you think to yourself, "If only something that fortunate would happen for me."

From my point of view, though I don't want any family to lose their home (as millions of Americans are these days), it's a little hard to muster up sympathy for this particular family, which essentially blew the gift they were given.

It would be especially annoying if ABC or someone else bailed the family out at this point so that everyone save's face. The family made a choice and must learn to live with the consequences, IMO.

But I don't think the family should get the blame alone. I think the show's producers should have some fault here as well. Why did the family need a mansion when a new house would simply do? For $450,000, the show could have built four or five fairly nice, dependable homes, which still would have been an upgrade to this particular family, and helped out others.

While the show's producers say they encourage the families to seek out financial counseling, maybe they'd do better to either provide a counselor or make the families sign something that prevents them from using their new homes as collateral for questionable loans.

The show would do better to follow the Habitat for Humanity model of building solid, dependable, no-frills houses and spreading the wealth among many families rather than one specatular house for one.

But then, that doesn't make for exciting TV. However, maybe this will provide a cautionary tale to future home recipients.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Those fans of the new CBS reality show "Greatest American Dog" should take note that it has moved to Wednesdays at 8 p.m.

"NOVA" (PBS, 9 p.m.) has a new "Science Now."

Everything else is pretty much various reality fare, so pick one and enjoy.

1 comment:

zodin2008 said...

Yeah, more reality, sounds like another movie from Netflix to night. The Summer season really sucks for TV, save for Thursdays and one thing each on Sundays and Fridays.

It's a very sad story and while my sympathy for these people is limited since they squandered the money, you hit the nail on the head - ABC NEEDS to make sure a financial planner is provided and I'd almost go as far to say that there should be a contractual obligation for said family to use the lady or gentleman the network provides.