One of the things I enjoy is watching HGTV (Home and Gardening Television). I think I can honestly say it’s one of the many pleasures I relish in my old age. There’s a show that comes on HGTV that I find to be a metaphorical fix for many ills of the world. Of course, I realize that real-life TV isn’t totally real-life, but this show is one of the better ones that can lay claim to the moniker that I’ve seen yet.
Home Town is filmed in Laurel Mississippi. It’s hosted by residents Ben and Erin Napier. These are two of the most down-home, optically enjoyable people you could ever see on TV. Their deep southern accents, honest affection for each other, and love they harbor for their small town seems genuine, not concocted by the shows production efforts. Ben is a highly skilled wood worker and Erin, his wife, is an artist. During each episode they show two houses (in need of varying degrees of rehab) to someone, mostly couples, who is in the market to buy a house. The buyer selects one of the homes for purchase. Then, Ben and Erin, along with a crew of professionals (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.) skillfully apply what seems like the Midas touch to a home in need of loving owners.
Mississippi has a history of not being a very progressive place. I live in a place that also has had to reckon with some less than progressive attitudes that have erupted into actions many of its denizens would prefer never happened. I live in Little rock, Arkansas. This show contradicts all the stereotypes one might have about small-town Mississippi. I’ve watched the show since it premiered on HGTV, and I’ve seen a world of diversity in the people Ben and Erin offer their assistance to in acquiring a home. There have been folks from above the Masson Dixon Line; couples of mixed-race, who during my first two or three decades of life couldn’t have dreamed of purchasing a house in the neighborhoods shown on this show. There was one episode where an older African-American lady not only purchased a house that Ben and Erin resuscitated, but also established a business in the downtown area of Laurel.
As I watch Home Town, I find myself drawing comparisons to Mayberry, the fictional town where Sheriff Andy lived. This was an ideal southern village too, but the timeframe was different. For one thing, there was no ethnic diversity on the show. It also didn’t present real-life scenarios.
As Ben and Erin work passionately to grant older homes in Laurel a look far better than their original profile, to improve the landscape of their small southern town, they have no idea that there’s and old guy in Arkansas, just 350 miles west of them who thinks Home Town is, “How I want it to be.”
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.