Reality Television

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

ABC Television Network

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            In 2003, a reality television show began airing on the ABC Television Network that changed many people’s lives forever.  It is one of the few reality shows that does not focus on competition, but rather on people coming together to help out their fellow man.  Sure, there is a time constraint – a race against the clock to build or renovate a house in 7 days time - but Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is about helping people, not about seeing how fast someone could get eliminated from the competition.  Perhaps it’s this twist to the reality show genre that has made the show so appealing to its millions of viewers over the past three seasons.

            Every week, Ty Pennington (formerly of Trading Spaces) and his design team work to make wishes and dreams comes true for families all across America.  The design team includes carpenter/designer Paul Dimeo, carpenter/designer Paige Hemmis, designer Tanya McQueen, interior designer Michael Moloney, carpenter/designer Ed Sanders, exterior designer Preston Sharp, landscape designer Eduardo Xol, designer Daniel Kucan, designer Constance Ramos, and designer Tracey Hutson.  Usually, a mixed selection of four or five designers from the team appear with Ty Pennington in any given episode.

            In each episode, television viewers are introduced to a family in need of assistance from the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition team.  The introductions are first made via video tapes that the family has submitted outlining their plight.  The stories of loss, hardship, strength and perseverance are enough to bring the tears to the eyes of the hardest of hearts.  Viewers are then brought to the families’ home where they gain more knowledge about the families and their needs.  In past episodes, these families have consisted of people with special needs, people who have lost cherished loved ones, and people striving to make a difference in other people’s lives, all of whom need help in either renovating or rebuilding their run-down, severely damaged, or out-grown homes.

            The families chosen by Extreme Makeover for a home renovation/reconstruction are sent on vacations tailored to their needs.  Some are sent to Disney, while others have been sent to resorts.  In one instance, a war vet who had lost his leg was sent to a rehab center where he was fitted with a new state of the art prosthetic leg. 

            Each house the Extreme Makeover team builds is filled with little personal touches that make these houses homes for the various families.  Children’s rooms are tailor-made to reflect the interests of the children, discovered through interviews and research completed by members of the design team.  Children’s rooms are often themed dependent on the child’s interests.  Lovers of dinosaurs will get the perfect prehistoric room, lovers of science will have everything they need to become a scientist in the future, sports lovers may wonder to discover an entire arena right in their very own room.  Huge living rooms and kitchens are designed with the family in mind – large and spacious rooms where the families can spend time together, doing the things they love to do together.  Often times, pieces from the original homes of these families are used in the decorative motif of the new construct as items of remembrance for times spent in the original home.

            The builders brought in by the Extreme Makeover team volunteer their time, services and money, building houses that are tailor-made to the needs of each family.  Often, special touches are added to ensure the safety of the home for all of the occupants.  Special UV Protection windows were installed for one family whose daughter suffered from polymorphic light eruption.  Special padded flooring was put into the home of one family whose son suffered from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a genetic disorder in which bones are easily breakable.  Special wall and floor textures were made to help one blind man differentiate one room from another in his family’s home.  Special HEPPA Air-Filtration Systems were installed in the home of one family whose mother struggled with cancer and whose three adopted daughters were fighting the affects of the AIDS virus.  Each daughter’s room contained a refrigerator for the large quantity of prescription medicines they were forced to take to remain healthy. 

            Families are often surprised with donations from the community, the builders, celebrities and more.  Often times, a company will offer monetary aid by either helping to pay off the family’s mortgage or offering a college fund for the children.  And Sears is always on hand to provide state-of-the-art appliances, decorative touches, clothing, and more to provide for the comfort and needs of each family.

            Recently, the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition design team toured the path of destruction left behind by Hurricane Katrina.  Knowing they couldn’t possibly help every family that was touched by this disaster, the team did what they could to help entire communities.  Whether it was erecting a memorial in Mississippi for those who lost their lives to the storm, renovating a New Orleans church, rebuilding a little league baseball field in Florida, rebuilding a Mississippi community health care clinic, delivering new instruments to the musicians in New Orleans who lost everything to the storm, or just giving the basic items of clothing and other supplies to hurricane victims, the members of the Extreme Makeover team were bound and determined to make a difference in the towns ravaged by the devastating disaster that was Hurricane Katrina.

            Even more important than the help Extreme Makeover: Home Edition provides for families is the inspiration that the show gives for others to help.  Often times, families who have received help from the Extreme Makeover team are the first in line to assist other families rebuild their dreams.  Builders who have constructed homes for the show in the past, volunteer their services for future homes, hoping to help more families in any way they can.  Some of the families that have received help from the Extreme Makeover team were already active in their communities, striving to assist others in need, even while they themselves were in terrible need.  These people have received added assistance from Extreme Makeover in the form of offices, monetary assistance, computers, clothing and more in an effort to extend the helping hand from these families to more families throughout the community.

            Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is a show about giving to others, helping to make other people’s lives just a tad easier to live, and giving people hope.  It’s about giving people what they need to achieve their dreams.  Extreme Makeover: Home Edition helps to rebuild lives one home at a time.  Tune in to ABC on Sundays, 8PM EST to watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and see the magic for yourselves.


For feedback, visit our message board or e-mail the author at