The Washington Times - December 10, 2008, 02:00PM

Back in August, I penned a story about cable networks deciding to change the focus of their home remodeling shows away from “flipping” (i.e., buying a house, remodeling it, and selling it for a profit) and toward avoiding foreclosures. From that piece:

Ms. Kemp Becker and her crew of contractors tend to focus on smaller improvements that make a big difference to potential home buyers and appraisers. “Many of the improvements are simple things,” she said. “As we say: Plants on the outside, paint on the inside. A lot of these homes need decluttering and revamping so you can reveal the home in its best light.”

This is a common strategy, said William Gale, vice president of economic studies at the Brookings Institution. “Sellers will continue to do the types of renovations these TV shows feature in an effort to raise the value of their house and it’s ‘curb appeal,’” he said, adding that it’s “not surprising that the preponderance of TV shows about real estate have had to change their focus to reflect the current housing market.”


Now comes news that the Bravo Network is not only renewing “Flipping Out,” but also that the audience has risen by almost 48 percent in the last year. Kind of ironic that, despite the nation’s housing woes, people are still willing to watch a yuppie like Jeff Lewis try to turn a profit in the real estate business, eh?

Well, yes and no. Entertaining television is entertaining television, regardless of the subject or focus of the show. As one network exec noted, “Bringing these compelling personalities back was a no-brainer.” And in terms of absolute numbers, “Flipping Out” is still seen by only 1.1 million viewers; any increase in viewership will come across as a large percentage jump when we’re dealing with figures this small. Plus, reality television (and television in general) tends to be viewed less as “reality” than as wish-fulfillment — it’s not too surprising that people want to be comforted in a time of economic distress by the idea that “Hey, maybe that third house we got with a no-money down mortgage will turn into a good investment after all.”