Extreme Makeover shoot involves “countless retakes”

Even as more houses constructed on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition suffer from financial problems–like one that’s in foreclosure, while one in Orlando now has a lien against it due to unpaid county fines–the production continues to produce brand-new, often mansion-like homes for deserving families.

The New York Times’ Key Magazine went behind the scenes during the production of the episode that aired Oct. 5, documenting the house-building process–and the ways in which producers fake parts of the show, from retakes to the earpieces in their hosts’ ears that allow producers to make sure their on-camera talent say and do exactly what they want them to do.

Although all of this is not exactly unsurprising, it is kind of shocking, like when producers make four-year-old Faith Akers repeat scenes over and over again until she says the right things. The magazine reports that her mother “Ginger eventually showed up and remarked that her daughter looked ‘about done.’ They pushed ahead, doing another take with Faith, in her wheelchair, cruising over the grass.”

Executive producer Conrad Ricketts, “who came up with the idea of helping needy families … when he discovered the family featured in the pilot,” according to the story, justified the production’s use of sponsorships, because ABC couldn’t afford the show otherwise, but also said it wouldn’t work without them. “If we paid people, you wouldn’t have the magic,” he said.

But since a lot of that magic is faked, what kind of magic is it, really? On day two, for “several hours, the volunteers restaged their charge for the camera until finally — after countless takes — the huge shovels flattened the house to raucous cheers,” the magazine says.

Earlier, a PA told Faith’s father, Greg, what to wear (“Just so you know, ‘when you come back for the reveal day — no whites, no stripes, no logos and no plaids. Plaids are terrible on camera.”) At the end of the first day, Greg told the magazine, “They were a little pushy for my taste. But we are getting a new house.”

Emotional Buildup [New York Times Key Magazine]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.