Film and TV

Reality Bites: The Most Embarrassing Rooms In America

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like a competition for "most embarrassing room in America" could go on for something approaching eternity (much like this blog itself). Going solely from my own history, there was the (college) bedroom with nothing but flyers for the most offensive bands I could fine (Revolting Cocks, Meatmen, etc), and later on the living room of our first house, done in rose wallpaper and pink trim paint.

And how are we defining "embarrassing," anyway? Outdated? Tacky? One person's Laura Ashley is another's poison, and so forth. This is all just a long-winded way of saying The Most Embarrassing Rooms in America, HGTV's latest attempt to make us all feel bad about our living situation, will probably cause a lot of hurt feelings.

Host Tiffany Brooks was the winner of season eight of HGTV Star. Look at that, a reality competition that actually produced results (where are all those Top Chef winners again?). She and co-host/carpenter Jeff Dublin are "on a mission" to find America's most horrendous living room.

The Episode I Saw (TM) took Tiffany and Jeff to Edina, MN, home of Shawn and John. I assume this was shot in what passes for summer up there, as Shawn is only wearing jeans and a light sweater. Their dilemma: pink carpet, falling ceiling tiles, and John's terrible mannequin head art. There was also a toilet paper dispenser in the middle of the room, but I was unfortunately unable to hear John's explanation for it over the successive waves of nausea that rolled over me.

What comes next will be familiar to anyone who's been in earshot of HGTV at any point in the last five years: Tiffany and Jeff present several options for the room makeover. In this case, a "retro chic" room (in Tiffany's mind "retro" means "widescreen HD TV hung from a support beam"), a vintage cocktail bar (which will really fit in with Shawn's request that the room be kid-friendly, maybe she's French), and a "mid-century" modern romp room that incorporates both designs. I like that one. Then again, this is what I think of when I hear "mid-century romp:"

Sure enough the couple goes with the mid-century option, and the usual shenanigans begin. Tiffany and Jeff tear the room down to the studs, yet still "involve John and Shawn in the process" by asking them to do strenuous tasks like picking out wallpaper and carpet samples. Man, that's my kind of decorating. How the hell do you get in on this? I need somebody to turn my garage into a Tiki lounge/panic room/evil laboratory.

I like Tiffany's enthusiasm (who *wouldn't* be pumped to escape their dull home life and travel to exotic Minnesota?), and Jeff reminds me of a buff Max Headroom, which is cool. But The Most Embarrassing Rooms In America is, like all HGTV shows, utterly interchangeable. Does anyone doubt that the couple will love the [zero cost] makeover? Does anyone in these programs ever demand to have things put back the way they were? And if they did, would it ever air? All I know is if I was getting a completely FOC renovation to my house, I'd proclaim it the greatest thing ever, even if the walls were covered with Thomas Kinkade prints and the floors were covered in termite mounds.

Okay, maybe I'd say no to the Kinkade prints.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar