Saturday, January 15, 2005

My new favorite TV show

OK, I lied.

See, I'm not one of those people who goes around trying to impress everyone by claiming that I never watch TV. I really do watch less television than anyone I know. Except my husband. He never watches television at all, and I watch one show. It's called "How Clean is Your House?" and it's currently airing on the Lifetime network.

I guess I shouldn't really call it my new favorite TV show, because my old favorite TV show was on the air before I had children, and just so you know how long ago that was, I should tell you that my oldest child will turn 10 this year.

I guess by now it's clear that keeping up with popular culture by means of my comments on television shows is about as useful as trying to tell time by looking at the hour hand of a clock. Maybe even less so.

(Note: It's a good thing I'm not proposing to wax lyrical on the subject of my favorite pop groups.)

Anyway, now to describe the greatness that is "How Clean is Your House?" I can't really decide whether it's a more of a makeover show or more of a reality show. I mean, it's obvious that these people's houses are getting made over. And like a good makeover show, there's a formula.

This is how it goes. Every week Kim and Aggie inspect someone's house, screech about how foul it is, lecture the person responsible, share one or two cleaning tips, and squeeze in at least one product placement. In every show the owner is filmed doing part of the de-junking and cleaning up. A team of heavy-duty cleaners then takes over, and the last part of the show is shots of the owner returning to an immaculate, decluttered home. Then, just like that show with what's-his-name and what's-her-name making people's wardrobes over, a couple of weeks later there is a return visit to see whether the makeoveree has begun to slip.

So there is definitely a strong resemblance to--wait a minute--it's coming--aha!--"What Not to Wear."

But there's also something of a reality show vibe about "How Clean Is Your House?" I mean, it's one thing to see how horribly someone dresses when you're filming them on the street or asking them to bring their old clothes into a television studio; they might not know they're being filmed, but they are in public, after all. It's not like they're being filmed through their living room windows. It's another thing altogether to shoot the contents of your subjects' refrigerators in all their disgusting glory. Or show the fresh mouse droppings on their living room rug. Or the cat vomit all over their shoes. Or mold on someone's dental floss container.

Anyway, my husband calls this show "Television for the Smug." Which deftly eludes the question of genre that I've been nattering on about, and which was interesting to me and probably nobody else. And that's just as well, because who cares what kind of show it is? The point is, this show exists to make me feel superior, and really, what could be better?

With its entertainment centers and wall-to-wall carpeting, its mouse droppings, expired dairy products, and mold, this show combines the best of bad taste and outright squalor. These people's houses and apartments are so stultifyingly style-free and unbelievably filthy that I'm riveted to the television every Monday night. I've even awakened my husband by screeching "Eeeeeeew!!" when the camera zooms in on little bugs all over someone's mattress, or when Kim and Aggie open a carton of sour cream only to disclose something that looks like brown shoe polish.

Personally, in terms of the smug factor, I think "How Clean is Your House?" leaves "What Not to Wear" sitting in the road. Sure, I feel smug when I see some poor style-challenged nitwit running around wearing baby tees and toe socks, but for true smugness, show me someone who stores her shoes in her bathtub because if she doesn't, her cats will vomit on them. Naturally I pity a clueless goofball whose idea of style icons are Elsa Lanchester as the Bride of Frankenstein with just a soupcon of Betty Page thrown in for good measure. But only the truly pathetic have me saying "How can anyone LIVE like that??" in a tone of utter bemusement every Monday night.

So anyway, check it out. It's a quick 25 minutes of fun, interrupted by regular commercial breaks in which--mark my words--you will find yourself picking up the room. See if you don't.


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xxx, Poppy.