A couple of weeks ago I was sitting with Sylvia in the theatre room while she was watching Bargain Block, a reality show about two guys who renovate homes. The show's hook is pretty interesting: the guys buy really cheap, awful houses in Detroit, renovate them, and then sell them at affordable prices. Typically they buy a property for $1,000 to $50,000, pour in a few tens of thousands of dollars in renovations, and sell them for $85,000 to $115,000 or so. And it all happens in one neighbourhood--a sort of two-man urban redevelopment scheme.
It all sounds too good to be true, but I've gotten kind of hooked on the show and the two guys doing the renovations and their friend the realtor seem utterly sincere. Moreover, the renovation guys are incredibly talented, turning houses that were falling apart into genuinely beautiful spaces.
Like all "reality" television, Bargain Block has its irritating tropes--the obviously rehearsed moments that are meant to look spontaneous, the fishy editing, the screen time wasted on establishing shots that don't relate to the story or even help set the mood, the music, etc. But the sincerity of the leads and their obvious talent shines through all that. They obviously love their work, and if the numbers they display are to be believed, they really are creating affordable housing and restoring a neighbourhood that desperately needs it. To my embarrassment, I was moved to tears by the end of one episode because of the simple everyday humanity on display. People are actually nice to each other on this show, and I think I'm starved for that.
Search for Bargain Block on YouTube if you're interested in seeing clips from the episodes.