I’ve been the owner of a mid-century, split-level fixer-upper home for about six years. My family and I have put some work into the home, which has resulted in painted walls and one single remodeled bathroom. Yeah, there’s plenty left to fix-up. A favorite pastime in my marriage is to wander around the house with my wife and pretend like we are amateur designers debating the myriad ways we could improve our living space. Yes, we are the target market for Chip and Joanna Gaines new home and lifestyle cable channel premiering in the summer of 2020. And as much as I hate to admit it. I’m probably going to hate-watch the crap out of it.
The Gaines’s earnest hardworking sweetness is specifically designed to jack into my suburban homeowner amygdala. Where once I might have watched their show Fixer Upper to be misled about the ease with which I could buy a home with “good bones,” now I tune in to be misled about the ease of renovation. Over and over again I watch in awe as the Gaine’s transform a hot mess home into a contemporary shabby-chick palace with nothing but pluck, a little shiplap and a glimmer of sweat on Chip’s brow. Are there budgets? Sure. But they sound wildly manageable. It would appear that for just a few grand, a dream house could be in my grasp too.
It’s not though. Unlike the Gaines, I have neither the money, the time nor the wherewithal to tear down walls and install new floors. In fact, I’ve had ripped wallpaper in my kitchen for nearly two years and have yet to find time to take it down and paint. What I need in my life are a good editor and lucrative sponsorship deals, just like Chip and Jo. But it sounds like that’s the whole point of the duo’s new network. It’s not just about home improvement, it’s about life improvement.
“Whether it’s design and renovation, cooking, gardening, wellness, community, entrepreneurialism or relationships-our hope is when you come to our network it feels like home,” Joanna recently tweeted.
The thought of the Gaines treating wellness or relationships in the way they treat home buying and renovation strikes me as an odd prospect. At the same time, I’m drawn inexorably by a perverse desire to watch. Because like my home, my relationship and my body could always use some work. Who’s to say I won’t get some good ideas from watching the Gaines apply their contemporary Christian values, tireless work ethic and a generous slathering of L.L. Bean to turn a fat slob like myself into a Chip-ish hunk of a family man?
The program line-up for the new network is yet to be announced, although it will be the exclusive home of the Fixer Upper catalog. And that leaves plenty of room for my imagination. For instance, I desperately want them to produce and exercise program that is solely based on the lifting, moving and manipulation of shiplap. I want a dating show in which the Gaines introduces a nice young lady to three different dudes, each of whom has a variety of problems that they promise her to fix.
“This is Dave,” I can imagine Joanna saying. “He has plenty of charm and a great job, but he is a functional alcoholic with male pattern baldness. Still, with a little rehab and some hair plugs he could be a great catch.”
Of course, that’s unlikely to happen, because the Chip and Joanna are on the hook to build on an audience already well-primed for their brand of bland earth-toned American conventionalism. That’s really the promise they offer: normalcy.
And that’s why I’ll probably be tuning in. Because as much as I loathe the lie of the Gaines lifestyle, I’m deeply entranced by the Gaines idea of normalcy. I want sweet, normal healthy children. I want an unshakeable marriage full of cute eye-rolling and chaste kisses over homemade lunches. I want a home full of textures and shiny contemporary objects.
I’ll never have that though because life is messy, expensive and difficult. Which make the promise of a channel by Chip and Joanna Gaines one of complete escapism. So I’ll watch, snarking my way through show after show, but dreaming that my life could really be fixed up as soundly and as perfectly as a Lubbock ranch house.