Please pass the kleenex

By Mir
October 16, 2005

There’s a phenomenon in reality television shows that I refer to as the “but NEXT WEEK” principle. Basically it has to do with dramatic tension and how–depending on a given show’s construct–each successive episode is even more scary or riveting or unexpected or WHATEVER than the last. Things just grow and grow and there is no going back.

For example: I have a friend who desperately wants to be on “What Not to Wear” on TLC. I’ve nominated her a couple of times, and I suspect that some of her students have as well. But WNTW has already done square-dressing school teachers. They can’t possibly do another one, because now they’re however many episodes in and the people they feature now are regularly heading out to the grocery store wearing nothing but burlap sacks tied up with rope, and for formal events they don polyester jumpsuits in various flowered patterns. The fact that my friend relies overmuch on polarfleece really can’t compete.

When those nanny shows started up, the kids in them were stubborn and rude. By now, you tune in to one of those shows and the nanny is confronting a small army of shrieking minors armed with AK-47s and fully rotating heads.

Tonight I watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, as I am wont to do on Sunday nights. And it’s not like I’m unaware that the show is going to make me bawl like a baby; of COURSE it’s going to be touching and heartwarming and make me cry. But I keep watching, because it’s pretty cool that they can build such beautiful stuff from the ground up in a week when it took me two months to get the floor guy to come install the vinyl in my mudroom.

I watch for the home design stuff. I do. Shut UP. Because the humanitarian stories they feature–all falling in perfect succession on the “but NEXT WEEK” spectrum–are each more heart-wrenching than the previous one. And, seriously, GAH. I am working very, very hard on being completely dead inside, and a show that regularly reduces me to blubbering is just not part of my plan. But I can’t. stop. watching.

At this point, I think I can admit that I am powerless over my addiction to Ty Pennington. Rather than removing the trigger events from my viewing schedule, I think the best I can hope for is to better prepare myself for the drama. Perhaps if I knew in advance what’s to be presented, I wouldn’t be so deeply affected by it. That’s what I’ve decided to familiarize myself with each upcoming episode. Next week I plan to be completely dry-eyed, I tell you.

NEXT WEEK on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition….
Ty and the team take on the Kerflibbitz family! Join us as they venture to the backwoods of Small Town, USA, where the extended Kerflibbitz family lives in a mud hut they build from dirt dredged from the river, painstakingly packed together with the ashes of fifteen family pets that have all met with horrible catastrophes. Ma Kerflibbitz died in a freak aerosol cheese accident shortly after the birth of their twelfth child. Young JimmyJoeBob will never know his mother, but of course he has other challenges even more pressing, given that he was born with no legs and fifteen and a half fingers. Pa Kerflibbitz not only cares for all twelve children, his aging parents, two sisters, and several strangers who wandered into the hut one day, he works double shifts at the tackle store and cruisades tirelessly for the rights of homeless, one-eyed, diabetic vegans.

Tune in to witness the palatial mansion the team puts together for them… including Ty’s “secret project” of a roller rink where all the concession stand proceeds go directly to struggling organic farmers. You won’t want to miss each close-up of the gaggle of Kerflibbitz urchins as they ooh and aah over their new digs… especially when little EppieMae’s eyes go round at the sight of a bag of rice.

Next Sunday, I’ll be cold like ice. Sears can bite me.


  1. shannon

    Oh man, tonight’s episode was the worst!!! I worked with adults who are developmentally disabled and to watch these kids and see the joy…

    I am addicted to the HGTV shows as well. Can’t. look. away.

  2. Shari

    Sobbed. For the first time in about seventeen episodes. I mostly just leak and take great, huffy breathless sighs.

    And I don’t even think Ty is cute!

  3. DebR

    That’s why I refuse to watch “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” – the “but next week” thing. I watched it once and thought, nope…if the stories are going to get more and more sobbable every week, I’m not doin’ this. I hate to cry, even for Ty. And I would, I know it, so I won’t let ’em show it. Heh.

    Maybe you and your friend can think of a gimmick for WNTW that makes her more tragic than a mere square-dressing school teacher. Could she fake a rare disease or something? (kidding, kidding…)

    I bet you could do the makeover part for her yourself, since they give the same advice over and over, but coming up with that $5k visa card could be a problem!

  4. Amy-GO


  5. divinecalm

    Hey, here’s an idea for you. Perhaps you should be a reality show writer. I’ve heard they are paid slave wages and have horrible hours…not too different from raising kids, right? Then you would have the power to make other people cry and save your own tears.

  6. ben

    Last night my wife and my eldest had a discussion about disabilities, ADHD, and the fact that Ty is hyperactive also, which gives him so much energy. It was interesting to listen in on, to say the least. My son now wants to go to live at a camp, as long as they have the mega big screen TV and all the video games.

    And I totally read that as “homeless, one-eyed, diabetic virgins, which upset me greatly, but fortunately I re-read it before I was sobbing openly.

    You should so write for a “reality” show, Mir.

  7. Aimee

    Ha! I read it as virgins, too! I would watch any reality show you wrote for, Mir.

  8. Bob

    I thought I read somewhere that Ty is from/lives in Atlanta. Maybe Joss can hook you up.

  9. Audra

    I followed the link in your Momwriter email and boy am I glad I did. Love your writing style. I almost sobbed while she was singing. I blame pregnancy hormones. I managed to keep the tears under wraps…THIS time.

    As for Ty…I thought he was cute with his shirt on, but last night proved he’s quite yummy with it off! Not as yummy as my hubby…but nice to watch in the midst of heart-wrenching drama. :)

  10. Heather

    I too watched EM last night…and I came *very* close to crying, but I only teared up. I was so proud. What I really don’t get is why exactly I turned away when Ty removed his shirt. Maybe, since the guy I was hanging out with was wearing an old white T-shirt, I’d seen all the man-nipple I could handle for one evening.

  11. Amy

    Okay, so I’m not the only one who needed Kleenex last night.


    Oh but Ty changing his shirt at TV Guide?! Be still my heart.

  12. Angel

    Oh gosh, I have it on tape, will make sure to have the tissues handy! Glad to know I’m not the only one who bawls watching this show!

  13. Cyndi

    OK, see? I love Ty, but…

    I just can’t do the Sunday Night Crying thing anymore.

    “Touched by an Angel” had me on Sunday nights for years…they finally got to the point where they had to end the show because people started crying as the opening credits rolled and were in dehydrated comas through the commercial breaks. That tends to piss off the advertisers.

    I was watching Extreme…but it did just seem to get worse every week. The last time I watched was the episode in which the parents were both deaf, the youngest was blind with autism and the one normal kid was sort of taking care of everyone…OMG. I mean, Marlee Matlin, an ATV AND a college scholarship? I needed IV fluid replacement after that ordeal.

    I had to just stop cold turkey. It was killing me. Cold turkey did work. I have a tiny little craving once in awhile…but I know I have added years to my life.

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