I need to re-think my attitude toward reality television. I really love a good hour-long scripted drama, and I always will. Except for a few episodes of American Idol, I never watched much reality TV before now. I have to start giving more of these programs a chance. I discovered last week at the GLAAD Media Awards that there are some great people on these shows—hosts like John Gidding (HGTV’s Curb Appeal: The Block) and contestants like Yigit Pura (Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts).
Curb Appeal: The Block is a home makeover show where architect/designer John Gidding transforms the front of a house with landscaping, masonry, paint, and architectural detailing. Well, sometimes it’s the backyard as well. It depends on the house and their $20,000 budget. While doing the major makeover, the team also does smaller improvements to other homes on the same block. They really pack a lot of work into a 30 minute program. I like how they don’t waste any time. Rapid editing gets right to the interesting stuff. Even with the fast pace, they still manage to include some lively—even tense—interactions. They obviously choose homeowners who have personality and look good on camera. Hey, it’s television entertainment, after all. At least they’re not choosing people with heartbreaking stories and building them grand houses they can’t afford to maintain. People who may be lying and abusing their kids…(don’t get me started on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, please!) I also like the focus being on the exterior for a change. I’m no gardener, but I enjoy the landscaping part of the makeover. I do wonder if the homeowners successfully maintain their new gardens, so I can’t help picturing the team sneaking back months later to check things out.
My father was an architect, so I spent my early childhood sitting at drafting tables playing with rubber stamps and mechanical pencils. I also played with my father’s Wright Blocks, never understanding why he’d get so upset when I broke a piece. Turns out they were rare and valuable. I thought they were pretty worthless myself, since the furniture shapes were too small for my Barbie dolls. My father did some work under John Lloyd Wright, but I was too young to remember him. Any romantic notions I had about architecture were dashed when I worked before college as a receptionist at my father’s office. He was a consultant on navy contracts. I spent my days typing government specifications that went something like this: ”The door frames shall not be wider than three feet, two inches by six feet, five inches, and shall not be narrower than two feet, eleven inches by five feet, ten inches. The doors shall be…” for pages and pages and pages. The worst part of the job was when the boss made me get out a broom and hose to scrub the bird poop from the front steps. I got my revenge when I killed the copier by dumping toner into the gears. It was an accident, I swear.
My point to all this reminiscing? None of the architects I knew growing up looked like John Gidding! It’s no surprise that he’s a former fashion model. Having met him, I can confirm that he’s even nicer looking in person. He’s also personable and friendly, so it’s not just an act for the camera. I’m definitely a fan now, following him on twitter and facebook and his website.
I also met Yigit Pura, and he won me over. I have tried to watch the videos of Top Chef Just Desserts on the Bravo website, but all the videos I click on take me to the final segment when Pura is announced the winner. I don’t know why the website does this. I want to watch the entire episode. That’s one of my major complaints about reality TV, actually. The programs don’t usually merit repeat viewings, so no DVDs if you miss an episode. Or a whole season, for that matter. At least I can watch his “It Gets Better” video on YouTube. Yigit Pura lives here in San Francisco, and he’s planning to open a high concept dessert place in Union Square. He’s calling it Tout Sweet, and I’m looking forward to going there, assuming I can afford it! There isn’t an opening date yet, so I’ve set up a google alert. (I love google alerts!) I wouldn’t be surprised if Yigit Pura is offered a reality program of his own, since the camera loves him and so do viewers. Do I normally watch cooking shows? No, but I’d watch Pura grate lemon peel for an hour. (Are you reading this, Bravo?!)