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HGTV programming reflects hard economic times

May 8, 2009 |  4:00 am
Drew-lacheyKelley Alexander, a 47-year-old mother, is appearing on a new reality television series with something unusual at stake: her Sherman Oaks house.

If she and her sister can beat four other neighborhood families on HGTV's new reality show “$250,000 Challenge," which debuts at the end of the month, Alexander gets a quarter-million-dollar windfall, which she says is enough to save her from a looming foreclosure. But if she loses the contest, the home, which she shares with her two teenage children, will likely be gone.

"We have a bad mortgage," said Alexander as a small army of camera operators and production assistants prepared to shoot more footage outside the sliding-glass doors of her bedroom. "On the first day of [the show], they put foreclosure papers on my door."

Alexander, a divorcee whose ex-husband has helped support the family with his income as a TV writer, doesn't live in the Inland Empire, where foreclosure rates have been among the highest in Southern California. She lives on a leafy street in what was once a solidly middle-class neighborhood in Sherman Oaks. But an economy that's afflicted even once-secure families has her turning to a reality show for financial salvation.

In better times, reality television about real estate usually meant shows about lavish home design, rescuing neglected properties and even building brand-new homes for families down on their luck. But HGTV saw an opportunity amid the rubble of a crumbling economy to lend a helping hand to the middle class.

The new show, hosted by Drew Lachey and starting May 31, is fully embracing the consequences of the recession. It has families compete in a series of weekly home improvement and design challenges with the winner ultimately walking away with a newly renovated home and the huge cash prize. (The network says a second season is in the works.)

Read more HGTV programming reflects hard economic times

(Photo of Drew Lachey courtesy HGTV)
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