HGTV’s ridiculous defense of House Hunters’ fakeness

HGTV has responded to revelations that its popular series House Hunters is heavily staged to the point of being fake, filming after a decision has been made and even using houses that aren’t even for sale. In a statement to USA TODAY, HGTV executive Brian Balthazar said:

“We’ve learned that the pursuit of the perfect home involves big decisions that usually take place over a period of time — more time than we can capture in 30 minutes of television.

However, with a series like House Hunters, HGTV viewers enjoy the vicarious and entertaining experience of choosing a home — from establishing a budget, to touring properties and weighing the pros and cons of each one.

We’re making a television show, so we manage certain production and time constraints, while honoring the home-buying process. To maximize production time, we seek out families who are pretty far along in the process. Often everything moves much more quickly than we can anticipate, so we go back and revisit some of the homes that the family has already seen and we capture their authentic reactions.

Because the stakes in real estate are so high, these homeowners always find themselves right back in the moment, experiencing the same emotions and reactions to these properties. Showcasing three homes makes it easier for our audience to ‘play along’ and guess which one the family will select. It’s part of the joy of the House Hunters viewing experience. Through the lens of television, we can offer a uniquely satisfying and fun viewing experience that fulfills a universal need to occasionally step into someone else’s shoes.”

In other words: Yes, it’s fake, but you seem to enjoy it anyway, so whatever.

Seriously, while the tone is conciliatory and transparent, this is actually a ridiculous response once you examine what he’s saying. First, it’s impossible to capture “authentic reactions” when you’re asking someone to react to something that is no longer of consequence to them. It’d be much more authentic to have the show admit that these were houses buyers considered, and have them talk about their decision in the past tense.

Worse, though, Balthazar says they “revisit some of the homes that the family has already seen.” That might be okay (save for the fact that, again, producers are essentially asking the buyers to act and fake their reactions, since the decision has already been made), but that’s not what the show is being accused of. The story from a featured buyer says producers used her friends’ homes, ones that weren’t even for sale.

That’s a uniquely deceptive viewing experience.

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.