Monday, March 7, 2011

GenBlog 1: First Things First... 'How The Hell Did You Get Chosen For An HGTV Makeover?'

As an HGTV junkie, I Tivo an endless parade of makeover shows on a regular basis—“Property Virgins,” “House Hunters,” “Selling New York,” “My First Sale,” “Design Star,” “Real Estate Intervention," "Designed To Sell," "Design On A Dime," "Color Splash," "Divine Design" and "Dear Genevieve." Get the point?

So natch, HGTV is a “friend” on Facebook. Last summer, I cocked a brow when there was a message calling for New York-area viewers in need of a room makeover to audition for season four of “Dear Genevieve.”In a hot second, I sent an email to the producer, explaining that after gut renovating our kitchen, bathroom and hallway, unfortunately, just as I had contracted a living room and bedroom makeover, I got laid off. Nearly two years later, we hadn’t done a thing to match these rooms to the rest of our reworked apartment.

To my surprise, I heard back from the show’s Casting Director within days, requesting photos of the room, a shot of me and my partner, and an exterior shot of the building. “Once we have these, we can hopefully take the next step in the casting process,” she wrote.

I felt a tinge of what-if, but certainly didn’t consider getting my hopes up. Each season of “Dear Genevieve” comprises a mere 12 episodes. What were the chances, really? I sent the most flattering picture of Ayhan and me I could find, a grand photo of our Brooklyn Heights building and a nice realistic view of our ghetto living room and bedroom.A week later, I was stunned to get a cordial return email from Jaime the Casting Director: “I would love to take the next step in the casting process, which is the at-home on-camera interview.” She explained it was a casual audition, 45 minutes, “just the two of you chatting about the room and why you need a makeover. It’s fun. How about tomorrow morning?"

Tomorrow?! Actually, it was the ideal option: no time to prepare, no nerves, just a good-time “nothing-to-lose” proposition… Well, almost. I had to coach Ayhan about his design preferences and we discussed things we’d like to see in the room… since his typical response to any changes I make in the apartment is either “I like it” or “It looks cluttered.”

And we did have a fine time in the audition, laughing, gamboling around the apartment, chatting about our love for this historic nabe and our humble home. Mind you, it wasn’t lost on me that we fit the HGTV target to a tee. As of February 2011, HGTV was cable’s sixteenth most-watched network, with an average of 1,185,000 viewers a week. Over the past year, the channel’s viewership climbed 14%, according to Mediapost—particularly in its target 25-to-54 demo. It reaches 99 million homes, while HGTV.com attracts more than 4 million unique visitors per month. And in July 2010, “Dear Genevieve” was renewed for an additional 26 episodes.

A middle-aged, stable gay couple living in a picture-perfect nabe, with a "design challenge" of monumental proportions. We were ripe for target practice, I'm thinking.

Two weeks later, I returned home to a message on our voicemail: “Chuck and Ayhan, we would love to have you on our show.” It was like winning the lottery.

But as amazing as it was to be selected among hundreds of entries for “Dear Genevieve,” the biggest challenge was still to come: coop board approval…