It’s time to check in with the channel we love to rant about – Home and Garden Television, which many believe would be more accurately named Home Television. (Yes, we seem to be losing our G.)
The most obvious change is the addition of Eric Stromer as uber-host for the whole channel. He pops up, looking like he does, and tells us that "Saturday mornings are getting supercharged on HGTV!" Never having heard of Eric, I Googled and found out he’s a "correspondent" with The Insider and one of People’s Sexiest Men Alive. Now I bet you’re expecting me to criticize HGTV for not using a horticultural expert in this role, perhaps folksy Roger Swain? Hell, no. Eric’s not just HOT but fun and energetic and I say to beefcake in home+garden TV programming – bring it on! That is, unless and until I hear him say really stupid things, and since his own show is about home repair or construction or whatnot, I won’t be hazarding a guess on that subject.
Now videotaping the shows is easy because they’re concentrated, just like Eric says, on weekend mornings (who’s sitting indoors watching them in August, after all?) On Saturday the shows run from 9:30 to 11 and again from noon to 1. On Sunday there are 8 gardening shows back to back from 7 am to 11. And here they are in order of quality, beginning with the best.
GARDENING BY THE YARD WITH PAUL JAMES
Paul has many fans and I’m one of them because he presents really good information in an entertaining way. For example, his recent segment about houseplants – one of my least favorite subjects – held my interest because he was working with a young guy living in an apartment to help him reduce the "nerd factor" and that made it fun. And he really explained how to pot ‘em up and how to water ‘em. And then his report on the design flaw of having pebbles between flagstones was right-on, something I’d ranted about myself. (What’s the flaw? That they come loose and hurt like hell when stepped on with bare feet.) He suggests crushed stone
between the flagstones or "polymeric sand" instead, and tells us there’s information about it on HGTV.com. Well done.
Equally educational is this straightforward contest between three designers. We see their presentations, learn who wins, then see the installation and -ta-da!- the results. So we’re shown a range of possibilities for the site in question and frankly, we get a good glimpse of what talented professionals can do and it’s damn impressive. Then the show tells us some details we desperately want to know: the location of the garden and how much the project costs. And the projects cost like $20,000 Thank you!! I’m also thankful for what’s missing from the show: flashy, MTV-style editing and an overanimated host.
This show is a mixed bag, as I’ve written before. There’s still no information about location or cost. Still with
the cutesy couples and the MTV editing style that makes it so hard to
see the damn garden. Sigh.
The host is a new voiceover/advertising actor to replace the old voiceover/advertising actor, but this one’s younger and peppier, and the script is less formulaic. Unfortunately, the projects routinely cost at least a quarter million and we’re not told where the garden is located, even when it’s absurd not to do so. Like in a recent episode when the often-referred to theme of the new design was "Northwest style," wouldn’t it have been instructive to be learn that they’re trying to pull this off in the Atlanta area? That might explain what the homeowner means when he refers mysteriously to "where we live." Arrrgh. And by the way, their projects are ALL near Atlanta.
I checked back with this show to see if their landscape designs were still terrible and DID find one done by an actual garden professional, which I found promising. But even in a project where all the foundation plants were being ripped out and the hedges hacked back severely, the plants were referred to generically as "bushes". Are the producers going out of their way to withhold helpful information from the viewer, or what? And I’d gotten too encouraged by seeing one that one decent garden design because in the very next show the "after" landscape highlighteded – and I’m not making this up – rectangles cut into the front lawn filled with colored glass mulch and nothing else. If only I had a photo to show you because such ugliness is hard to visualize, I know. And again no budget, no location.
Well, that’s it. Still gone is the beloved horticulturist Erica Glasener and her "Gardener’s Diary." But the good news? Gone also is Susie Coelho arranging nick-nacks on the patios of Southern California on the quickly-forgotten "Outer Spaces."