Holmes in New Orleans

Kudos to HGTV for bringing the Holmes on Homes series back to U.S. viewers. Even if they have given it a crappy time slot (8am Saturday mornings), it’s great that we can see the show again. It used to be carried on the Discovery Home Channel, but they dropped it when that channel became Planet Green.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it follows Canadian contractor Mike Holmes and his crew as they step in to fix the problems left behind by other contractors. In some cases the previous contractors were inept at best and in others they were outright criminally unscrupulous. It is one of the most informative shows ever produced when it comes to home repair and construction. Viewers learn best practices and what to watch out for when inspecting a home or dealing with contractors. But the biggest difference between Holmes on Homes and other instructional shows like This Old House is the human element. You get to know the crew. You feel for the homeowners and the injustice of what prior contractors have done to their lives. But you also share in the emotional payoff every time Mike’s crew finishes a job and you see the homeowner’s reaction. Every time Mike turns a house back over to the homeowner, it’s like he’s given them their lives back. That’s the real draw of the show for me.

This morning, August 29th, marked the 4th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and its destruction of the city of New Orleans and so it was fitting that HGTV chose today for the U.S. premier of Holmes in New Orleans. In this two-hour special, Mike Holmes takes his crew to NOLA to try and build a prototype sustainable LEED-certified home in 10 weeks, start to finish. The effort was to support Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation (coincidentally named the same as the motto Mike Holmes has been using for years) which is attempting to rebuild homes in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. The Holmes house would be the very first of the 150 houses planned for the first leg of the Foundation’s efforts.

And what a home it would be. A crazy design with all kinds of funky angles with the main structure raised over 8 feet off the ground so that if another flood ever came through it would just wash under the house. Solar panels, insulation and ventilation designed to reduce electricity consumption by over 70%! Just incredible. Plus you get to see Mike’s workmanship put to the test as the house was just completed as Hurricane Gustav was rolling in.

But as with most Holmes on Homes episodes, it was the human aspect that made this show special and got Holmes in New Orleans nominated for so many awards. Not to give away any spoilers, but from the story of the homeowner Gloria Guy to the trials and tribulations dealt by mother nature, it was quite the emotional roller coaster. For those of you who have watched Holmes on Homes through the years, you’ve come to know the crew like old friends and it is cool to see them here in the States. It’s great to see how much Damon has come into his own, able to keep his cool in a leadership role under intense pressure. Also grown up and contributing in a big way are Mike’s kids, Mike Jr. and Sherry. Mike’s other daughter Amanda also took part, working behind the scenes doing public relations. But it wasn’t all good; it was particularly hard to watch some of the others, especially Pinky, wither under the adverse conditions. As much as I respected them in the past, I think twice as much of them after New Orleans, all of them, but especially the ones that had the fortitude to see this project through to the end. What great people and what compelling television.

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