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A Miserabilist’s Guide To TV Property Shows

6 Aug

Kirstie Allsopp Phil Spencer

About the author: Jemima Lesser blogs for Cushion Couture, the home of cheap cushions online.

There is a terrible plague affecting modern society. I’m not talking about war, or famine or even global warming. This affliction began in the murky depths of daytime telly and has crawled, oozing, into the evening and weekend schedules like some monstrous new species. I am referring, of course, to the not-so-new breed of TV property programs.

As the economy continues to stumble and the housing market wheezes its way to recovery, it seems an inverse trend is taking place. Alongside the increasing inability for most decent and hardworking Britons to actually be able to buy or indeed build a place to live, there appears to be a growing propensity for TV toffs to tell us all about the joys of doing exactly that! The inner grump in me is compelled to combat this tide of insanity by taking hapless viewers on a bitter tour of the property program world, just to achieve some semblance of balance on the issue.

Kirstie & Phil’s Evil Empire

We’ll start with Kirstie and Phil. The undisputed tyrants of property programming, their empire spreads far across the land. Joining forces for Location, Location, Location, they occasionally take time off to boss people individually inside and outside the properties they already have, as well as the ones they want to buy, with shows like Phil Spencer: Secret Agent and the terrifying Kirstie’s Handmade Britain. (Personally, I suspect the latter could be some sort of smokescreen for Kirstie’s plans to open a full time orphan sweatshop with her ill-gotten millions). The duo’s brand of humour, emulating an arsey married couple who jibe constantly at one another in barely concealed contempt, is almost embarrassing to watch. The only respite these two get from bickering is in sniping at the optimism of would-be buyers for daring to hope for a two-bed terrace priced at less than half a million within the smoggy corridors of Greater London. Fat chance.

Kevin McCloud’s ASSpirationalism

Moving swiftly on to Kevin McCloud, the smug and airy face of TV’s middle-class-only-zone. Grand Designs is an hour of your life you will never get back as you marvel enviously at the seemingly effortless procurement of rural beauty spots for the purpose of erecting different shaped boxes made out of Swedish wood and Russian glass. Where else in real life can you find actual non-fictional people who like to have a bath in entirely transparent outbuildings powered by eucalyptus flavoured steam generators? And the apple-cheeked, braying Yuppies who wish such monstrosities upon our beloved countryside always say they’ve run out of money about three-quarters of the way through, yet somehow manage to finish the project. They haven’t run out of cash, this is a blatant lie to make you feel better about being poor and them seem more humanoid. It’s frankly ridiculous.

The Worst of the Rest

Homes Under the Hammer sells us the unlikely utopia of housing development when most of our own walls are falling down around us, Sarah Beeny’s Restoration Nightmare creates a window into the stately homes we’ll never own, let alone go to ruin. The Restoration Man, The Home Show and the everlasting A Place in the Sun: Home or Away. It’s a miracle there’s anything else on the box at all! All these programmes really do is show us what the haves have got and what the have-nots haven’t. Put down the remote, get yourself outside and pitch a tent for the weekend. It’s the only way to get out of the TV property plague for a breath of fresh air.

The post A Miserabilist’s Guide To TV Property Shows appeared first on WhatCulture!.

Former Bulls*%t w/ Penn & Teller Show-Runner and Creator of Playboy’s The Truth About Sex Makes 6-Hour TV Series In His Garage

5 Mar


My name is Jon Hotchkiss and well, I make TV for a living. I began my career as a writer on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. The one question people I meet always ask me about Bill is: “Did you two get high together?” I’m kidding (and we did not). Actually, the thing people want to know is: “What’s Bill really like?” And I always give the same answer: “It’s impossible for me to say anything bad about a guy who gave me my start in show-biz. I wanted to be a guy who writes jokes for TV. And Bill let me. And got me high. (I’m kidding. Or am I?)

Bill also performed lots of jokes I wrote, including this one in front of President Clinton at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner: “Barbara Streisand is here. And she just got an honorary doctorate from Brandeis University. Streisand is now a doctor. And you thought you had to wait a long time to see her when she was just a singer.”

(**Note: If you’re under 25 years old, in order to get that joke, you’ll need a time machine. Preferably the hot-tub kind.)

Moving on. Since my days at PI, I’ve had jobs I loved: running the Showtime series, Bullshit with Penn & Teller, creating and running the NBC series, “My Dad is Better Than Your Dad” and creating/running the series “The Truth About Sex” for Playboy TV. I’ve made shows for families… and ones with lots of naked people. The ones with naked people are more fun for me. Although less for my wife. And even less so for my rabbi. Funny enough, my girlfriend doesn’t seem to mind at all.

I’ve also had some jobs I hated, like writing for Craig Kilborn’s Late Late Show. I left that job after nearly two years when Craig discovered I was regularly calling the show a “soul sucking shit-box”. Which it was. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have put it on a billboard.

Anyway — let’s skip to the present.

The top photo is the garage at my house. The tall building in the photo below on the left is the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in Los Angeles.



Very quickly… TV shows are made and funded by huge multi-national media conglomerates that have huge infrastructures of personnel and departments that do advertising, marketing, affiliate relations, program development, and one particularly heinous department whose job is to watch TV shows before they are broadcast and take out all the stuff anyone will really like. Most TV is chocolate ice-cream. However, your favorite show didn’t start out that way. It started off as Rocky Road when it was dreamed up, birthed or written. Except before you get to watch it, people at the TV network go through and very carefully and deliberately pick out all the chocolate chunks, and the marshmallows and the nuts because they don’t want to offend, upset, or alienate anyone. Or have anyone break a tooth. Or get diabetes. Or go into anaphylactic shock from a peanut allergy.

Which makes what I did all the more crazy. After making, running, working on and creating shows for Discovery, Science Channel, TLC, NBC, Showtime, Playboy TV, GSN, and Comedy Central I decided I wanted to make a TV series for me. A series that wasn’t homogenized by a TV network and that wasn’t watered down to accommodate for the timid tastes of advertisers trying to sell soap. And thus, my 6-hour TV series was born.

This vs That.


I created it. I paid for it. I produced it. I directed it. And I wrote it. Not my myself. With the generous help of many talented friends and colleagues — not the least of which are the show’s terrifically funny — and might I say handsome hosts — Mark DeCarlo, Chris Tallman and Brad Sherwood. Without going into more detail, I love working with two of them.


Anywho — If there has been one guiding force in much of my TV work, it would have to be my zeal and passion for the art of needlepoint. Well, that and the search for honest answers, truth and facts.

This vs That is series that uses science to investigate questions everyone has, but can’t seem to answer. Questions like:

What’s the fastest way to navigate through traffic, weave in and out of cars, stay in your lane or take surface streets?

Which flotation device is more likely to save your life if you survive a plane crash in water, the life vest or the seat cushion?

Which is smarter, dogs or cats?

Which vehicle really gets better gas mileage, a hybrid or a car with a combustion engine?

Best of all, the show is unique. It’s got the chocolate chunks, the marshmallows and the nuts, too. Plus, no commercials. We’re not advertising anything.

Our Motto? No bias. No bullshit. Just science, fact and funny.

These were all questions I had…and I just figured that other people had the same questions, too. So, I decided to do something about it. Which was make a TV show and provide some answers.

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 11.42.08 AM

This vs That is going to premiere on March 1st @ All six episodes will be posted on day one. No waiting around a week — like you do with regular TV — to see more of what you like. And the shows will be available 24/7 for every device you own: your laptop, desktop, phone, TV, tablet and we’re working on beaming the show right into your head. But, that technology won’t be available for at least 3 or 4 days.

I hope that you’ll support this adventure. The way we consume TV has changed. But, you know that. And now, it’s time to change who gets to create, own and even distribute TV. Because TV can and will be better. It will be bolder. It will come from creative people with singular visions. In fact, it’s actually happening. Right now. This vs That was written in my garage, produced and edited there, too. And best of all, it’s going to be distributed from there, as well. It’s not a camel — a horse made my committee, it wasn’t homogenized. It wasn’t watered down to satisfy advertisers. Toyota will not be pleased when we reveal the results of our Hybrid vs Combustion engine challenge, for example.

It used to be you needed a big building and the backing of a media conglomerate to make, own and distribute a TV show. Those days are over.

Please like us on Facebook.

Seriously. That’s what we need right now. We need you to like us on Facebook.

Why? So you’ll be first to know the details of our coming premiere… and we can share the success of this adventure together.

Jon Hotchkiss is the executive producer and creator of the new series, This vs That. He invites you to like This vs That on facebook. For a third time. Which is a little much.

The post Former Bulls*%t w/ Penn & Teller Show-Runner and Creator of Playboy’s The Truth About Sex Makes 6-Hour TV Series In His Garage appeared first on WhatCulture!.

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