Sept. 25, 2004 -- It's become the magic formula of the show Extreme Home Makeover: a fast-paced hour of renovation, renewal and sometimes a few tears — culminating in a moment of surprise. But how on earth is it done?
The first thing that happens when a home is chosen for the show is that the home makeover team swarms the neighborhood like an army, with vans and crews and satellite trucks.
In the center of it all — in just about every scene — is the show's star, Ty Pennington.
He was trained as a carpenter, but actually works as a designer. He's also become a pin-up. He was named one of People magazine's 50 sexiest bachelors in 2002.
Since the show's premiere, Pennington has been the show's host, supervising a crew that transforms the homes of viewers who write in about their sad situations.
The renovations are completed in less than a week. The occupants kept sequestered while they are going on. The show climaxes when Pennington allows them to return to a house that is better than the one they left.
Race Against the Clock
It takes the crew one day to tear a house down. But then it's a race against the clock as the team works five days nonstop to transform rubble into a real home.
Pennington says it's a logistical nightmare. "Anyone who's ever done this knows we have to make decisions so fast, whether it's going to be cabinet choices or decking," he said. "Because we have to fly this from the hip once we get here."
The show's design team starts drawing up plans right away, but it never seems to go entirely as planned.
On the show there are always fights and moments of conflict and drama between the team members, but one of the show's designers, Michael Moloney, insists the disagreements usually end up working for the benefit of the family.
The home makeover team insists the conflicts are real. "I think that's a strange thing to say about reality TV," said executive producer Tom Forman. "But unlike some reality shows, this one is what you think it is. It's controlled chaos."