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Home makeover program shows demolition can be smashing

November 11, 2008

I confess to being a bit out of the loop on these reality-style television shows. I saw, I believe, one episode of "Survivor" and thought it was fine, except not really different from a visit to downtown Hagerstown, where you can enjoy similar entertainment without the annoyance of commercial interruption.

Since my nonsports-related TV viewing is now down to about nil, I had not heard of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

I thought it might be a board game with clickers, like the "Jeopardy!" Home Edition. Now, I find out it's an Emmy-winning program where deserving families in glorified shotgun shacks are rewarded by seeing glorious mansions rise from the ashes of their former double-wides -- and I do mean ashes, but I'll get to that.

This paradigm is eerily similar to what my brother did on the shores of Lake Champlain, when he bought the sorriest excuse for plaster and tar paper you have ever seen, but boasted a world-class view of the lake and Vermont's Green Mountains.

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Since the house was technically collateral for the loan, he was not permitted to demolish it outright. So he literally knocked down one room at a time and rebuilt it into a showpiece.

Trouble was, the project took about two decades. Had he thought to do it in seven days, he could have been Ty Pennington.

But be that as it may, everyone locally was quite excited to learn that a wonderful, inspiring Tri-State-area family from Quincy Township, Pa., was selected by ABC for a shingles-to-riches story for national television.

Again, however, my interest in the story had been marginal until I saw how the show's producers intended to demolish the old home -- with a monstrous, flame-throwing, dinosaur/robot that towered over the house, flames shooting from his nostrils.

Wow. Talk about raising the bar for Habitat for Humanity. What are they going to do now to get attention, build a house with a 40-foot ape? Who's going to be content with a sledgehammer and a crowbar after this?

The demolition also included a "Braveheart"-like storming of the home by volunteers and tradesmen prior to their assault.

I would like to suggest this the next time Washington County decides to demolish one of its historic homes -- which, considering the law of averages, ought to be happening any day now.

Charge the historic relic with barbarians and employ a 30-foot Infernosaurus. If we're going to lose a landmark, at least we can get a little showmanship out of the deal in return, just to ease the pain.

By Monday, concrete had been poured at the South Mountain, Pa., home, and framers were working on the walls. In all, they have 106 hours to complete the work and already they are a bit ahead of schedule.

So clip this out, and the next time a contractor tells you he can't possibly fix a leaking window for another three months, slip him this as a "gentle reminder" of what is possible.

But, thinking ahead, the shelf life of reality shows is limited. So where does "Extreme Makeover" go from here? "Extreme Makeover: Groundhog Edition," where they take a simple rodent's burrow and rebuild the catacombs?

"Extreme Makeover: Congressional Edition," where they bring down underperforming lawmakers with a flaming Magasaurus?

That, I like the sound of. Ty Pennington, call your service.

Who knows, I might even watch.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com.

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