Extreme Makeover – Home Edition (Season 7; Episode 24)
This Episode of “Extreme Makeover” is all about the Williams, a family in need who cannot get out of their bad situation without external help. The father was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) two years earlier, a mortal disease that disables him from going to work. Their 6 year old boy is paralyzed (spinea bifidae) and sits in a wheelchair. In general the family emotionally suffers from these circumstances. To make things worse, they are in a bad financial situation, their house is ramshackle and absolutely not adapted to the situation. One thing that keeps the family together is the father’s great passion for his American Football team that he is still coach of.
Basically the people that appear in the episode can be divided into three different groups: The cast, the Williams, and the helpers (friends, neighbours, and a professional construction team) to build the house. For the observation exercise we put the focus on the first group, the cast. It consists of five members:
· Ty: He is the “boss” and host, he guides the spectators through the program and is the motivator (both of the cast but also of the workers) in the project.
· Michael: He is responsible for the design of the house (exterior) and the garden.
· Tracy: She is responsible for the design of the bedrooms.
· Pauly: He is responsible for all other interior design
· Lee-Anne (guest cast): She knows the Williams personally and tells the other cast members what makes that family so special to her and in what situation they are.She also helps out in constructing the house and renovating the father’s sports club.
Their objective is to help the Williams to get out of their desperate situation. Therefore they plan to build a new house for them, completely adapted to the family’s situation, as to say spacious and wheelchair-friendly without any steps or stairs. In addition to that, they want to increase the Williams quality of live by giving them financial aid (e.g. paying their debts and medical costs). Since the father, according to his doctors, will only have a few years left to live, the cast also decides to renovate the whole interior of the sports building of his football team.
First we compared our team observations of the episode with the individual impressions. Looking at the cast we all agreed that they are a well-cooperating and organized team. Everybody is responsible for a certain task and knows exactly what to do. Also nobody fails on his work. As it is one of the latest episodes out of more than a hundred, they know each other very well so they have a friendly and personal relationship as well as professional. This might be the reason why everybody in the team seems very engaged. On most of the things that we observed we had similar opinions. We agreed that, for example, the people in the show, not only the cast, were very emotional. The program emphasizes the regrettable situation by continuously portraying emotions like crying, sobbing, etc., which to us, this emphasis, makes it look very “American”. Another point we agreed on is that although each cast member has a different task, they all have a common goal,which is exactly what triggers their motivation. Moreover they all share compassion with the family which gives the whole group a more personal and sympathetic feeling towards the project. In this point our opinions differed because one side thought that all of them have as much motivation to reach the common goal, but the other side opined that the guest cast has a stronger emotional connection with the project due to her personal relationship with the family. Two of us mentioned the aspect that money might play a role as well. Here we also came up with different arguments, e.g. they sure will be well paid for it, but in the program one cannot see that it is the money that makes them participate in the show. Concerning the money you might distinguish among the group members: The main cast that appears in every episode of “Extreme Makeover” might have a higher interest in the money, whereas the guest cast might not do so because she is a friend to the family. Thirdly we had different opinions about the emotions and the crying in the episode. Some of us thought that all the emotions shown were real; others simply believed they were exaggerated to strengthen the spectators’ sympathy.
Next we analysed how each of us made his or her first impressions on the episode and on the cast. At the beginning the cast is sitting in a tour bus, the guest cast passes a photo of the Williams to the other members and tells the family’s story and why they need and deserve the help (In the program, it is strongly emphasized that the help is well deserved). Two members of our group already knew the program and thus focused more on the family in need and what the cast was going to do specifically for this one family. The other two members who hadnot seen the program before, first tried to get a general impression of what they saw: who the cast was, what their tasks were, and what their purpose was. As the structure of “Extreme Makeover” is always the same the others already knew the answers to these questions.
Looking at stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination that one might find in “reality shows” is always interesting. Principally we found some stereotypes, mostly concerning the European idea of the American way of life: Seeing as the father’s life revolves around American Football, the whole family passionately joins him. This also relates to the fact that it is American Football, one of the most played and followed sport by Americans. Finally, looking at his team the players are all African Americans. This is not really astonishing but the stereotypical thing is that they all have bad backgrounds, as described in the episode, and that Mr. Williams and the sport gave them something to hold on to in their lives.
We analyzed if the cast had specific strengths or weaknesses. As the whole program is made up as one big success and they never show anybody failing on his or her task, we could only look at the strengths this team seems to have. As already mentioned above, the team is very well structured, everyone knows exactly what their job is, and thus the task-sharing among the cast members seems to work perfectly. Also regarding time management they seem to be faultless. While the Williams are on holidays for solely one week, the team manages to get the whole house and the whole sports building done without leaving any open task. Even more surprising is the fact that they always have the same opinion when it comes to making decisions, so all in all this team is rather ideal than real. The strategy to fulfil their goals is quite simple:
· Everything has to be done in one week time (then the Williams will be back from the holiday trip that they were sent on), meaning that there is a big time pressure on the project.
· They collect as much helpers as possible (friends, neighbours but also a professional constructing team).
· Byhaving a common and social goal, the cast and the contributing workers are easily motivated (this task is especially completed by the host of the program, Ty).
· Important decisions are always made by those who are responsible for that certain task, so there is no space for conflicts about how to achieve the goal.
In our opinion, although the team seems to work perfectly, it makes the show less worth watching. We would rather advise them to interact a bit more and make the decisions look balanced. In order to get the program even closer to reality because this might increase the spectators’ emotions. Especially when it comes to design we all thought that “less would be more”. By exaggerating the interior design of the house the designer makes the show look fake, which is not what should be portrayed. This may be something American people do like, but in our opinion it’s simply exaggerated.
All in all the team of Extreme Makeover- Home Edition that we observed and analyzed depicts an overall perfect teamwork with no facing difficulties or struggles.