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Lessons from Reality Television

I get that reality TV needs conflict to capture viewers.

Nov 28 Pauline Baird Jones Reality tv blog

I write novels. I know about conflict. And I get that reality TV needs conflict to capture viewers. I even watch reality tv FOR the conflict because that is mother’s milk for my characters. If you want to see how people react to stress, just tune into Top Chef or Project Runway or Survivors. 

When I started watching HGTV, semi-regularly at first, it was about moving. Specifically it was about moving from New Orleans to Houston. But a funny thing happened on the way to my move and beyond. I kind of got hooked on some of the shows. There’s a reason The Daily Beast  called The Property Brothers reality TV’s crack cocaine. 

But let’s face it. If you watch any show where real people get in front of the TV, then you’re going to see real behavior—sometimes real, less-than-wonderful behavior. 

So here are my notes from Lessons Learned from Watching Reality Television: 

  • Be grateful for what you have. (This one came to me watching a couple trying to downsize. What they really wanted was not less space, but to pay less rent.) 
  • Sometimes you have to fix the foundation before you can fix the house. This is true for people and houses.
  • Sometimes you need to fall in love again. Sometimes you need to move on. (From Love it or List it). 
  • A tool belt isn’t always a bad thing (I never promised every lesson would be deep)
  • People may not see us the way we see ourselves. (You see so many people who think they are hip or cool or something. And then they open their mouths…)
  • Learn to see what’s there, not what you want to be there—and be grateful for it. (I see so many people looking at truly beautiful, expensive houses and they wouldn’t be happy if they were hung with a new rope — a favorite phrase of the hubs. I was really touched by one episode of House Hunters. A single mom just wanted a home for her and her son. She was so humble and grateful for the modest home she finally found.)
  • Unrealistic expectations make you feel helpless and unhappy. Change your expectations and your circumstances will be better. 
  • If your housing “budget” is HALF A MILLION DOLLARS OR MORE, you should never use the word “only” in front of it. And you should smile more. You can (apparently) afford a half a million dollar house.
  • If you hire an expert to do something, don’t tell them how to do their job.
  • Don’t confuse hours of watching HGTV as expertise on anything.
  • Sometimes you need to focus on details, but sometimes you need to see past details to the big picture
  • What’s REALLY important (IMHO an extra bathroom is harder to install than an island in the kitchen and I’ll bet there is a life lesson in there, too.)
  • Be nice to other people. You never know when you’re going to need their help. (Top Chef)

Well, those are my lessons. Have you learned anything from watching reality television? Any comments about my list? 

Perilously yours,


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