For 199 episodes spread over eight years, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” made dreams come true. In the space of a week, deserving families had their homes remodeled from top to bottom. Or got the keys to new homes built from the ground up.
“The show is the warm hug that everybody needs right now,” said Loren Ruch, HGTV’s senior vice president of production and development. “It felt like the time to have a feel-good show — to watch a show that makes you cry from happy tears.”
“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” will air Sundays (7 p.m. Dish and DirecTV; 10 p.m. Comcast) beginning this weekend. The second episode (on Feb. 23) features the Barobis — three siblings, ages 14 to 20, who escaped from the Congo after their parents and younger sister were killed by rebels. They spent four years in a Ugandan refugee camp before immigrating to Utah with their aunt and 14-year-old cousin.
And the five of them had been living in a tiny Ogden apartment before the “Extreme” team built them a house from the ground up in 96 hours.
I had a chance to talk to the Barobis the day their home was unveiled, and I got to see their reaction when new series host Jesse Tyler Ferguson (“Modern Family”) yelled, “Move that bus!” And I can tell you that their joy and excitement were 100% genuine.
And, yes, the house really was built on a vacant lot in just four days. Which surprised even Ferguson, who admitted he was “a bit jaded, having been on television for a while” and went into this “thinking they don’t really do this in a week. This is impossible. And it’s insane that they actually can do this in a week.” Or less.
The builders and designers spend weeks getting to know the families and their needs, then develop plans before they arrive for the build. And they do it with local builders, hundreds of volunteers and the assistance of the local municipalities who grease the wheels.
“A lot of the permits are pushed through,” Ferguson said. “We have a lot of people working behind the scenes trying to make sure that we’re not waiting on anyone. People are coming in the middle of the night to inspect the air ducts and the wiring so that we can keep moving.”
A second Utah-based episode that will air later this season features a Washington Terrace family whose home was badly damaged by a tornado in 2016. The “Extreme” team demolished that structure and built a new home, again in a matter of days, for Kelly Mayo, 59; her daughter, Michelle Smith, 38, and Michelle’s daughter, Haylee Smith, 7.
Basically, the new version of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” is the same show that ran from 2004-12 on ABC, albeit with a different host, a different team of designers and guest appearances by stars of other HGTV shows. (Tamara Day of “Bargain Mansions” shows up for the Barobis’ episode.)
And HGTV executives assure us that, behind the scenes, they’ve taken steps to make sure there’s no repeat of the horror stories from the original series — families who had to sell the houses because they couldn’t afford the taxes/utilities/maintenance.
But the show is less about how the sausage (and the homes) get made than it is about the heartwarming/heart-tugging stories of the families.
“It really restored my faith in humanity,” said designer Breegan Jane. “And from a design aspect … I had never built a home in five days.”
WHY THE AWKWARD TITLE? Weirdly enough, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” was a spinoff of “Extreme Makeover” (2002-2007), a widely criticized personal makeover show in which people underwent plastic surgery.
So the far-more-popular (and much longer running) spinoff was dubbed the “Home Edition” of “Extreme Makeover.”