This Old House
|This Old House|
|Created by||Russell Morash|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||786, as of April 2009|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||This Old House Ventures/WGBH|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution|
|Original run||February 20, 1979 – present|
This Old House is an American home improvement magazine and television series aired on the American television station Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) which follows remodeling projects of houses over a number of weeks. This Old House is produced by WGBH Productions. Warner Bros. Domestic Television distributes reruns of the series to commercial television stations.
This Old House and its sister series Ask This Old House are often broadcast together as The This Old House Hour (originally known as The New This Old House Hour). Both shows are owned by This Old House Ventures, Inc. (a subsidiary of Time, Inc.) and are underwritten by GMC and The Home Depot. Weyerhauser lumber distributor, a previous underwriter, by 1989 had donated more than $1,000,000 a year to the show. This Old House is also underwritten by State Farm Insurance and Andersen Windows, Inc. Ask This Old House is also underwritten by GE major appliances, Stanley Tools and the National Association of Realtors. Other underwriters throughout the show's tenure included Parks Corporation (featuring its line of Carver Tripp paint thinners/sealants/wood stains and treatments), Glidden paints, Montgomery Ward, Ace Hardware, Kohler plumbing, Schlage locks, Century 21 Real Estate, Toro lawnmowers/snowblowers and ERA Real Estate. Two of the original underwriters were Weyerhauser and Owens-Corning.
The third series to share the name is Inside This Old House, a retrospective featuring highlights from previous episodes. Old episodes are also shown under the program name This Old House Classics and were formerly shown on The Learning Channel under the name The Renovation Guide. Only the episodes with original host Bob Vila aired under that name. As of 2006[update], Classics are also carried on the commercial non-broadcast DIY Network as well as syndicated to local TV stations.
This Old House was one of the earliest home improvement shows on national television. As such, it was initially controversial among building contractors, and the cast was afraid that they were giving away secrets of the building trades. However, as time passed, the show grew into a cultural icon. Producer-director Russell Morash became known as the "Father of How-To."
Begun in 1979 as a one-time, 13-part series on the Boston PBS station WGBH, it has grown into one of the most popular programs on the network. It has produced spin-offs (notably The New Yankee Workshop hosted by Norm Abram), a magazine, and for-profit web sites. The show has won 17 Emmy Awards and received 82 nominations.
Although WGBH acquired the first two project houses (6 Percival Street in Dorchester and the Bigelow House in Newton) for renovation, the series then focused on renovating older houses, including those of modest size and value, with the homeowners doing some of the work, as a form of sweat equity. The series covering the renovation of the Westwood house (Weatherbee Farm) became something of a cult classic because of an escalating dispute between the hosts, Vila and Abram, and the homeowners over the direction the project was taking. Vila remarked at the end of the Westwood series that the owners could have contributed more "sweat equity." As the show evolved, it began to focus on higher-end, luxury homes with more of the work done by expert contractors and tradespeople.
Bob Vila, the original host, left in 1989 following a dispute about doing commercials and created a similar show called Bob Vila's Home Again. According to news reporter Barbara Beck, Vila was fired by WGBH Boston over making TV commercials for Rickel Home Centers, Home Depot's competitor. Home Depot, the show's underwriter, dropped its local sponsorship for This Old House after Vila made the commercials. Vila was fired in an effort to have Home Depot return as a sponsor to the show. During Vila's tenure, the show drew 11 million viewers and had won five Emmys. Weyerhauser, at this time a supplier for Home Depot, stopped underwriting the show. Steve Thomas took over hosting duties after Vila's departure, remaining with the program until 2003. Cast members later complained that Bob Vila took up too much screen time, and noted that the show became more of an ensemble production after he left.
Time Inc. began production of This Old House magazine in 1995. In 2001, Time Inc. bought the show from WGBH.
Kevin O'Connor is the current host. Before O'Connor joined the cast, he was a homeowner who appeared on Ask This Old House having problems with wallpaper removal. While O'Connor has been the host, Norm Abram's role has increased to that of a near co-host. In at least a couple of season opening episodes (Cambridge, Carlisle, and Austin), Norm has appeared with Kevin to introduce the new project. Norm also filled in for Kevin when his son was born during the Carlisle project.
To celebrate its 30th anniversary season, This Old House is working with Nuestra Comunidad to renovate a foreclosed home in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. Nuestra Comunidad is a non-profit development corporation, and acquired this 1870s-era Second Empire home from a bank. Once the job is done, the house's two units will be sold to two local families. Two students from YouthBuild Boston are assisting with the project, as is General Contractor David Lopes. Lopes has a great deal of experience in both historic preservation and affordable housing projects. He will take on such tasks as replacing part of the foundation, demolishing a three-story addition because it had gone far beyond repair, and rebuilding the house's decrepit interior. Much of the house's original details are beyond repair, but Lopes will work to preserve the most important ones.
The original theme song for This Old House was "Louisiana Fairy Tale", composed by Haven Gillespie, Mitchell Parish and J. Fred Coots and performed by early 20th-century jazz artist Fats Waller. The theme song was changed after This Old House Ventures acquired the series from WGBH. The next theme song was called "This Old House '97" composed by Peter Bell. A new one followed that in 2009.
Ask This Old House
Ask This Old House began in 2002 and was spun off from a section of This Old House Magazine of the same name. Readers of the magazine or viewers of the show submit questions about various home repair or improvement projects, which are answered by the experts. It has been nominated for 5 Emmy Awards. The regulars on the show are O'Connor, Tom Silva, Richard Trethewey and Roger Cook. (This Old House veteran Norm Abram does not appear on Ask This Old House due to numerous other commitments on Abram's part, notably his involvement in The New Yankee Workshop.) Guest experts appear to answer more specialized questions. The show takes place in "the loft" of a rural barn somewhere in the Boston area. Most of the questions are answered in the loft, but one or two homeowners in each episode receive a visit from one of the show's three tradesmen (or a guest tradesman if the project is not construction, plumbing/heating or landscaping related such as electrical or painting projects), who assist in either starting or completing the task with the homeowners' help. O'Connor sometimes assists in these projects. There is also a feature entitled "What Is It?" in which three of the four regulars try to guess what an unusual tool is used for. The adjudicating fourth regular reveals the actual use. Beginning with the 2007/08 season, this program added a "useful tip" segment provided by a viewer of the show. The useful tip segment is a revival of a short-lived feature of This Old House when Vila hosted the show.
The opening credits feature a GMC van towing the blue Ask This Old House trailer around Boston and rural Massachusetts before reaching its final destination, the barn. The short, twenty-five-second version shows Silva, the passenger, picking up four coffees from a drive-through, while the driver in the longer, forty-second version is shown to be O'Connor. In both versions, after pulling into the driveway beside the barn, the footage cuts to Richard Trethewey handing out the coffees to the other three regulars.
Prior to O'Connor's installation as host, the driver was Steve Thomas, the host for the show's first year.
Inside This Old House
The most recent spin-off of the This Old House franchise is Inside This Old House. It is shown primarily on the A&E Network. The show is very much like Ask This Old House: it is shot mainly in the "loft", hosted by O'Connor and features the regular experts listed above and also Abram (master carpenter). However, unlike Ask This Old House, usually one or two experts are used throughout the episode and a specific theme is discussed. The theme is usually a particular topic (e.g. landscaping, installing doors, etc.). Along with the in-house expert, and sometimes a guest expert, clips are shown of past episodes of This Old House (mainly the original episodes with Vila) to further illustrate the point, as well as revisiting past projects undertaken over the previous twenty-five years to see what the homeowners have done since airing. A segment called "Inside Out" features one of two guest commentators (Jimmy Dunn or Doreen Vigue), or one of the experts, with a brief and comedic overview of what was discussed on the show.
As of 2010[update], the cast is as follows:
- Norm Abram (Master carpenter)
- Roger Cook (Landscape contractor)
- Kevin O'Connor (Host, 2003–present)
- Tom Silva (General contractor)
- Richard Trethewey (Plumbing and HVAC)
As of 2011[update], the television production team is as follows:
- Russell Morash (Creator)
- Deborah Hood (Senior Series Producer, This Old House)
- Jennifer Wells (Producer, This Old House)
- Chris Wolfe (Senior Series Producer, Ask This Old House)
- Heath Racela (Producer, Ask This Old House)
Like many successful programs, This Old House has found its way into the humorist's eye on occasion. The most famous example is Tool Time, the "show-within-a-show" on the American television situation comedy Home Improvement. Tim Allen played Tim Taylor, a character inspired by Bob Vila, while Richard Karn portrayed Al Borland, a character based on Norm Abram. Bob Vila also guest starred from time to time as Tim's rival and archenemy.
Almost Live, a Seattle skit comedy show, also parodied This Old House as "This Here Place", "This Old Mansion", "This Old Yacht", "This Old Condo in Aspen", and "This New House...of Representatives". Fox's In Living Color featured an occasional bit titled "This Old Box" in which Damon Wayans played a homeless person who discussed "renovating" a large cardboard box where he lived. The Disney Channel's Mickey Mouse Club did a parody called "This Old Home", which featured a house made of candy. David Letterman did a parody location sketch of the series entitled "This House Needs Work" with Chris Elliot playing a somewhat eccentric fix-it man on Late Night with David Letterman. Long-running sketch comedy venue Saturday Night Live has parodied This Old House from time to time, notably in 1989 with John Larroquette and again in 2004 with Liam Neeson. Another 1988 SNL sketch featured Phil Hartman hosting a fictitious PBS show called "Robot Repair." The sketch had Hartman playing a sentient robot who instructed viewers on how to repair home appliances. Out of concern that the term "Robot Repair" suggested the repair of robots and not the actual theme of the show, the robot begged the producers for a new title, only to find that with each week, the title's wording got progressively more and more confusing (e.g., "Robot Repair and You"). The poor robot's frustration finally turned to meltdown when the producers presented the show as "This Old Robot."
In the seventh season of the second series of ZOOM, there was a parody of This Old House which was known as "This Old Place". There, "Abe Norman" (a parody of Norm Abram), played by Kyle Morrow, would fix something (example: washing machine) that would never end up as it should. On one occasion, he put a gown in a washing machine and it came out as the shirt he was wearing currently.
- History of This Old House
- Beck, Barbara (April 4, 1989). "Was 'This Old House' host fired for wrong commercial endorsements?". Modesto Bee (Modesto, California: Knight-Rider Newspapers). Retrieved 2010-03-25.
- Storrs, Francis (February 2009). "This Old House: An Oral History". Boston Magazine.
- Collins, Geneva (June 23, 1997). "Russell Morash: This old Yankee leads a guerrilla crew". Current.
- Bob Vila's This Old House (1981), ISBN 0-525-47670-9, pages 22 to 39.
- Sharpsteen, Bill (June 22, 1997). "If I Were a Carpenter". The Los Angeles Times.
- This Old House official website
- This Old House at the Internet Movie Database
- Ask This Old House at the Internet Movie Database
- This Old House at TV.com