If it’s possible to do something both avidly and intermittently, that’s the way Mandy and I watch the show “House Hunters.”
We’ve watched it for years, just off and on, throughout our courtship and now marriage. It’s pretty special to us. We’ll watch it in spurts, a bunch of episodes at a time, until we get sick of the houses and sick of the people and especially sick of the banter and take a break for several months or years, then return to it with renewed vigor. I don’t know if we watch any other show this way. “The Simpsons,” maybe.
Netflix has only fueled our consistent inconsistency. These days, binging is the norm. Mandy and I go through spells of watching one show from top to bottom, then finding another and repeating.
Recently, we made our way through Netflix’s collection of “House Hunters” episodes, and I was reminded why I both love and hate the show. I’m at least halfway convinced it’s some sort of mass social experiment HGTV is conducting to test the limits of human tolerance.
For those unfamiliar, the basic premise of the show involves an individual or couple in search of a new home. An agent will show off three homes, all of which will be nitpicked to death. At the end of the program, the buyer will announce which home he or she hates least.
What’s most fascinating about “House Hunters” is the way the people featured on the show have the preternatural ability to find fault in a house I would like to think most people would have to pour several lifetime’s worth of labor into owning. We’re talking veritable mansions towering a half-dozen stories above manicured fields so green, the word “green” is woefully inadequate. It’s like calling Donald Trump’s campaigning style “abrasive.”
Using a completely fabricated scenario, allow me to use my extensive familiarity with “House Hunters” to paint for you a mental picture of any given episode:
A young couple greets their real estate agent at the door of a large colonial that’s so beautiful, it would draw tears from all but the most grizzled of boulders. Although they are both freshly graduated from college, the couple have already acquired their dream jobs. She writes the clever things you read inside greeting cards; he taste-tests chocolate for Hershey’s. Their budget is $3.5 million, but that’s the upper limits. They’d prefer to keep it closer to $3 million if possible. Their agent makes this seem like an impossible task.
They have a list of demands. The husband would like a personal space — a “man cave,” he insists on calling it — to house his home theater, display his collection of vintage guitars, and still have enough room to build LEGO models of Star Wars vehicles. She’d like a heated pool, a big backyard to host parties and a large, open kitchen for all the cooking she claims to enjoy. Both insist on a fireplace and at least seven bedrooms, in case of guests, and would like a home with a lot of history and character, but fully upgraded with modern conveniences.
The agent claims to have found a home she thinks they’ll love. She is wrong.
The trio step into a living room that could swallow my entire house three times over and still have room. The agent consults her notes.
“So, it says here that Renaissance artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci once traveled through time to tour this home. Upon seeing this room, he openly wept and claimed, ‘Nothing born from my head or hand could ever touch the majesty of this creation.’ Oh, and here’s a fun fact, despite what is widely believed, Abraham Lincoln was actually assassinated here, not Ford’s Theater. Neat.”
The couple looks around. They are overtly disappointed.
“It feels a little cramped,” the husband says, his voice echoing through the cavernous space.
His wife nods her head in agreement.
“We may want kids some day,” she says, suggesting the two them are planning to found their own variation of the Duggar cult.
The tour continues.
“No granite counter tops,” the husband says immediately upon stepping into a kitchen that’s so up-to-date it’s actually beyond modern, as if some time-traveler plucked it from the year 2525 and dropped smack into the middle of present day suburban America. She stares disapprovingly at the six-burner gas stove.
“And white appliances,” she says in the same tone of voice we now use when discussing Bill Cosby.
The three of them wander casually from room-to-room, nitpicking each apart. Eventually, they stand inside a space large enough the Margratheans could build planets inside it. The real estate agent describes this as the “third guest bedroom’s second closet.”
“This can be your closet,” the wife says to her husband, her voice echoing for an eternity. He mugs at the camera and shrugs in a sitcomy way.
“Thought so,” he says. “You could never fit all your shoes in here.”
The three of them laugh.
Repeat with two more homes.
Eventually, the two of them settle on the first home they hated. We are treated to a brief synopsis of their lives several months into home ownership. Although it took some getting used to, and they had to make some sacrifices, this pinnacle of architecture is finally beginning to feel like a home. They are both happy. So very, very happy. The credits roll.
My heart fumes with hatred. I click play on the next episode.