Makeover Shows Rule New TV Schedule

It's the dream-come-true of a better you … and it's TV's hottest trend.

From niche cable channels to major networks, plain Janes and boring Bobs are being turned into jaw dropping beauties. And when their faces and bodies aren't being transformed, their living spaces are being turned upside down.

The makeover trend began a few years ago with just a couple of unique cable programs like TLC's Trading Spaces and E! Entertainment TV's Fashion Emergency

Those shows led to a series of new cable makeover programs. When word of their success got out, the makeover trend hit the networks.

Today, "before and after" junkies have more than 40 of these shows to choose from.

"There's Ambush Makeover, Mission Makeover, Makeover Story, What Not to Wear, A Personal Story, Model Mission… ," notes television historian Tom O'Neil.

O'Neil says the roots of the TV makeover craze can be traced back a half a century.

"The first makeover show was Queen for a Day back in the 1950s [in] which audiences would decide which sobbing housewife would get the mink stole or the washer dryer," O'Neil said.

While Queen for a Day may have planted the makeover seed, it's still a far cry from what today's contestants wind up with — new faces and new places.

Some individuals who actually make it on Extreme Makeover, on ABC, end up looking like entirely different people. Many of them undergo chin implants, tummy tucks, eye-lifts, weight loss and much more. Their recovery can take weeks.

Meanwhile, on shows like Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,TV contestants undergo complete makeovers — physical and domestic.

One new show on the USA Network goes one step beyond a traditional room or home makeover. Producers on House Wars start from scratch, and the luckiest contestants get to keep the new home they have decorated.

Barclay Fryery, a decorator on House Wars, says shows like his are wildly popular because people like to see how it's possible to change and improve lives.

"There's nothing better than leaving your house, if you're brave enough, and having someone come in and make a whole new look," Fryery said.

How Long Can it Last?

While reality TV in the form of the makeover is at the height of its popularity today, some wonder about whether or not it has staying power.

Psychologist Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, author of the book Enchanted Self, says these shows should hold viewer interest for some time, since the desire to change and improve will always be present. "People watch the shows for a number of reasons. One is … really out of interest that we really do love to see different spaces and how they can be changed and fixed up and so on," Holstein said. "Another is that it does appeal [to] the fantasy level of imagining 'what if' for ourselves," she said.

While Trading Spaces is considered a pioneer in terms of home improvement shows since it was one of the first to let viewers get to know regular folks in regular homes, others have found success in following its lead.

One of the most recent programs added to the list has some big star power behind it. Courteney Cox and David Arquette's new show, Mix It Up, demonstrates how couples with different tastes can combine their two worlds.

Fryery says he believes viewers at home like makeover shows because it gives them ideas about how they might improve their own looks and their own home. The programs have opened up a whole new world to people who never such change as a possibility.

"It's amazing and people love to see change," Fryery said "People are voyeurs. People like to look at other people's lives and see what's going on and people love to decorate."

ABCNEWS' Lara Spencer and Gary Wynn produced this story for Good Morning America.

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