The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page -

makes a bad joke, and Joanna rolls her eyes; Chip laughs about how bad his joke is.”

For Wei­d­horn, the dis­cov­ery was akin to a light-bulb mo­ment.

“I re­al­ized Chip and Joanna are peo­ple,” Wei­d­horn said. “I like their re­la­tion­ship. We want to be able to tell their story, not just the story of a house.”

The fi­nal cut of the pi­lot al­lowed for plenty of their nat­u­ral ban­ter — and the rest is ca­ble his­tory.

“Fixer Up­per” be­came a mansion-size hit, and the Gaine­ses these days are celebri­ties with an em­pire con­sist­ing of a sprawl­ing Waco shop­ping com­plex, va­ca­tion rentals, restau­rants, paint and decor lines, a Tar­get home col­lec­tion and a quar­terly magazine. But af­ter five sea­sons, “Fixer Up­per” has ended — the fi­nal new episode was shown this month.

For HGTV, the cou­ple's de­par­ture rep­re­sents a ma­jor loss. But the Gaine­ses' suc­cess pro­vided the net­work with a formula for fill­ing the rat­ings sink­hole that they'll leave be­hind: Make shows about charis­matic two­somes from un­der­ex­plored parts of the coun­try.

HGTV is ap­ply­ing the formula vig­or­ously: Nine­teen of its cur­rent se­ries are top-lined by duos, with more on the way. Some of the emerg­ing shows star sib­lings (“Re­stored by the Fords”) or par­ent-child teams (“Good Bones”), but most cen­ter on cou­ples.

“You can’t make an­other Chip and Jo,” said Wei­d­horn, who still works with HGTV, now as the head of her own un­script­ed­con­tent pro­duc­tion com­pany, 547 Barnard. “They had their own life­style, their own world. But you can set out to find duos who make view­ers say, ‘Re­la­tion­ship goals!’ or ‘Hey, I talk to my brother like that.’ View­ers like to see their own re­la­tion­ships re­flected in the tal­ent.”

Many of those view­ers are en­joy­ing the net­work in twos.

“The fact is, our view­ers are duos them­selves,” said Kath­leen Finch, chief life­style brands of­fi­cer for Dis­cov­ery Inc., which owns HGTV. “What we hear is, ‘My hus­band and I sit on the couch to­gether and watch.”’

HGTV is so fo­cused on Gone from HGTV but not for­got­ten: Chip and Joanna Gaines of the se­ries “Fixer Up­per”

find­ing tal­ent that re­flects that au­di­ence, it some­times lets the couch cou­ples cross through the screen. Three years ago, Dave and Chenoa Rivera — who left their tourism and med­i­cal-sales jobs to start ren­o­vat­ing prop­er­ties in Par­adise, Cal­i­for­nia — were two of the view­ers Finch de­scribes.

“We had been watch­ing ‘Flip or Flop,’ and I was like, ‘Hey, we do this,”’ Chenoa Rivera said.

She sent HGTV’s cast­ing in­box an email that de­scribed the ren­o­va­tion projects she and Dave Rivera col­lab­o­rate on and in­cluded their fam­ily Christ­mas photo. A year later, she heard from a pro­ducer. The Riveras shot a pi­lot and even­tu­ally got a se­ries green light. Their show, “Rus­tic Re­hab,” set to pre­miere April 26, paints them as savvy and down-to-earth — can-do hus­tlers in a woodsy cor­ner of Cal­i­for­nia.

Con­cep­tu­ally, “Re­hab” fol­lows the blue­print of “Flip or Flop,” the fran­chise that has be­come HGTV’s go-to for­mat for break­ing cou­ple tal­ent. Net­work ex­ec­u­tives are es­pe­cially ex­cited about two in par­tic­u­lar: “Flip or Flop Vegas,” with mixed­mar­tial-arts fighter Bris­tol Marunde and his Real­tor wife, Aubrey; and “Flip or Flop Nashville,” with for­mer NFL player DeRon Jenk­ins and Page Turner, a real-es­tate bro­ker.

Then there are the orig­i­nal “Flip or Flop” stars: Christina and Tarek El Moussa, who re­cently shot their first episodes since 2016 for a new sea­son that will start May 31. The El Mous­sas drew “throughthe-roof, gang­busters”

numbers for HGTV, ac­cord­ing to Finch. Their re­turn to the net­work af­ter their di­vorce will prob­a­bly do even bet­ter.

Of course, HGTV stars need more than chem­istry and in­ter­est­ing per­sonal lives: They have to ac­tu­ally know their way around a ham­mer — or at least look and sound as if they do on tele­vi­sion.

Which leads to hires such as Leanne and Steve Ford of “Re­stored by the Fords.” The mel­low, Pitts­burgh-based sib­lings have been at their re­spec­tive trades for years — hers in de­sign, his in con­struc­tion — and their sig­na­ture style skews more mod­ern and min­i­mal than the typ­i­cal HGTV aes­thetic.

“Re­stored by the Fords” pre­miered in Jan­uary and has av­er­aged nearly 1.7 mil­lion view­ers per episode (HGTV’s best-rated new pro­gram this year among view­ers ages 25 to 54). So “Fords” is off to a good start, and its stars’ pro­files are on the rise.

“Our In­sta­grams are boom­ing,” Leanne Ford said.

On "Home Town," co-host Erin Napier and her hus­band, Ben, ren­o­vate homes in Lau­rel, Mis­sis­sippi, where they grew up. In its sec­ond sea­son, “Home Town” was watched by an av­er­age of 1.5 mil­lion view­ers per episode, and the fame that has fol­lowed has made Lau­rel feel even smaller to Erin Napier.

“I am an in­tro­vert,” she said. “I get anx­ious when peo­ple who don’t know me want to talk at the gro­cery store.”

Ben Napier, a wood­worker, was nearby with

their 3-month-old daugh­ter, He­len.

“Peo­ple are spend­ing their spring breaks in Lau­rel,” he said. “If you’d told me that 10 years ago, I’d have laughed.” (He might have taken a les­son from the tra­jec­tory of the Gaine­ses, who have brought more tourists to Waco — the va­ca­tion rentals they own some­times sell out up to a year in ad­vance.)

In Lau­rel, “Home Town” fans shop for goods in­spired by the show at the Napiers’ Front Street bou­tique, Lau­rel Mer­can­tile Co., and cruise past the cou­ple’s 1920s Crafts­man home.

“I was plant­ing flow­ers on my front porch ear­lier to­day,” Erin Napier said. “About 15 tourists drove by and filmed me do­ing it.”

Such anec­dotes hint at why HGTV’s duos have be­come so pop­u­lar — and cru­cial to the net­work’s suc­cess. They blur the line be­tween fame and reg­u­lar life, talk­ing on tele­vi­sion the way you imag­ine they would if you in­vited them to din­ner.

But Erin Napier sus­pects there’s some­thing more sub­tle draw­ing peo­ple to her show and her street. “Home Town” — like many HGTV shows — cel­e­brates com­mon ex­pe­ri­ences that other types of TV ig­nore or mock: mar­ried life, modest bud­gets, set­tling down in the place where you grew up.

“When I was a teenager, I thought I was go­ing to go work in pub­lish­ing in New York,” she said. “But once I left Lau­rel, I re­al­ized how spe­cial it was. It didn’t mat­ter that it was small. I thought, if the op­por­tu­nity I want isn’t there — well, I’ll just make it.”


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.