Don't mock me: I've been watching the Love It or List It shows.
Lots of people do. Real estate shows are a surefire draw. Love or List it Vancouver (W network) is mind-boggling. And not just the eye-watering real estate values. There is also the matter of Jillian Harris.
Harris has turned her appearances on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette into a mini-empire and a reno-TV career. She was briefly on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and now she's the interior designer who tries to make couples love their home and stay in it while realtor Todd Talbot tries to find a new home for the couple and entice them to move.
Harris has one of the most astonishing websites of any Canadian TV personality. She's selling more stuff than Wal-Mart and selling herself relentlessly. A recent list of 25 Thing You Don't Know About Me was, well, a less-than-gripping read: #9 "I can never figure out how to spell decisions or Wednesday." And #14: "I have a huge crush on Jimmy Kimmel. When I was on his show I thought I was going to die."
The format of Love It or List It Vancouver is mind-numbingly rigid. Todd and Jillian josh about who is going to win the battle. He pretends to find her annoying. She pretends to find him annoying. He makes really bad jokes.
Always, there's a hitch in Jillian's renovation plan. The city won't allow something or the home is revealed to have ancient knob-and-tube wiring. There is a very stilted, phony conversation with the contractor about this. Jillian wears a different outfit in every single scene. Sometimes she goes into a house in one outfit and emerges in another.
Another Love it or List It show – I can't figure out where it's set, they all blend – has realtor David Visentin doing fake battle with designer Hilary Farr, whose accent and tone could send you up the walls, howling in despair. Little wonder Farr will play the villainess in Ross Petty's next pantomime. Probably with little effort.
Those Love it or List It shows are hugely popular on the HGTV channel in the United States. Mind you, according to the W network, the channel's actual No. 1 reality series is Masters of Flip, which returns for a new season on Tuesday.
Masters of Flip has considerable charm. Set in Nashville – where houses are incredibly cheap, it seems – it features Canadian-born couple Kortney and Dave Wilson. They are the parents of three and have a successful racket in buying, renovating and flipping homes. To date, they've flipped more than 50 homes and they do it with a sense of fun and humour that works splendidly for this genre of television.
While Dave is witty and flippant, it's Kortney who steals the show. She gets a bit frazzled in the middle of a reno and when something goes wrong, she says, "Oh my God, I totally forgot something." Except it comes out as, "OhmyGodItotallyforgotsomething!" When she meets her designer, Jessica, they throw around ideas and then squeal. Literally, they squeal about how outrageous their ideas are.
As always with these shows, something goes awry. On this show, the problem is preceded by Dave declaring, "Kortney's going to lose her mind." Unlike the Love it or List It shows, Masters of Flip doesn't have what sounds like utterly false banter and phony disagreements. Kortney might react to unwelcome news by licking her thumb and rubbing it on Dave's face. They have the natural chemistry of a married couple. Kortney says to a contractor – many of whom appear to be stoners – with a wink, "Dave doesn't have to know about everything. You know how it goes: Easier to just ask for forgiveness."
I can see why Masters of Flip is so popular. It has the natural zest and organic charm that other shows lack. Plus, one gets to actually see Kortney and Dave doing physical work rather than posturing and faking crises. It's a superfun show. And I say "superfun" because Kortney is all about everything being superfun.
Mind you, I remain drawn to the formidable annoyance of Jillian Harris and Todd Talbot. That sort of extreme fakery is horribly compelling. And, as for Hilary Farr, one can imagine her storming into a scene in Downton Abbey and intimidating even the Dowager Countess of Grantham. I've imagined that. Don't mock me.