Have you ever harbored sexual feelings toward a granite countertop, or imagined that a dual-vanity sink was actually former Prince ingénue Vanity? If so, you’re likely already an avid fan of HGTV (Home & Garden Television, although gardens are scarce), a cable channel that makes the rigorous renovation of dumpy houses seem downright erotic.

Reno-porn’s roots trace back to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the mid-’aughts lifestyle-makeover juggernaut that cemented Bravo as both the gayest and most likable cable network ever invented. Next came the excessively-real-estate-centric Flipping Out and its dynamo of derring-do, Jeff Lewis, a hilariously hyperactive interior designer/home-flipper who offended everyone in his wake, including his boyfriends. From there, the genre got straighter, but not narrower: Today’s reno-porn couples (this is more of a doubles than a singles racket) have broad appeal, stretching across numerous cable channels and demographics. So if you’ve never pitched a tent at the thought of re-caulking a bathroom sink, here’s a quick breakdown of the major players.

Property Brothers (HGTV)

They’re listed at 6-foot-5. They’ve got cheekbones for miles and dangerous stubble that belies their super-sweet personae. You can make out baby unicorns and apple orchards in their eyes. They’re identical twins: One’s all business with a crew-cut and a suit, while the other wears flannel and flaunts blonde streaks in his over-conditioned mane. One can snag you a pad for fifty G’s under asking, while the other can demo and hammer his way to doubling your home’s value. As the show takes pains to make clear, they’re also straight: Any man who leaves his wife unattended around them deserves what he gets.

These guys are also plenty handy around the house; that part is easy to forget. The premise here is that one Prop Bra will give a loving couple a tour of their dream house, which is inevitably out of their price range. From there, the other Prop Bra swoops in and retrofits a ramshackle fixer-upper to their newly piqued dream-home specifications, with a water leak or some other minor-league malarkey serving as scant dramatic tension. But just look at these dreamboats! Next to them, the house they’re rehabbing might as well be a rusty toolshed in the side yard.

Flipping Vegas (A&E)

House-flipping is so early-’aughts. But from the niche’s embers rose proto-dong Scott Yancey, who snaps up rat-infested Sin City homes on the cheap. Upon installing laminate floors, a fancy-looking can, and track lighting, he turns his pads over for a profit handsome enough to finance a fleet of Delorean-esque sports cars. Scott wears collarless leather jackets, has spiky blonde hair, and is married to his interior decorator, Amie, whose voice is a human vaping pipe. In every episode, her job is to obliterate his design budget: “Scott’s gonna kill me for this, but I’m gonna get it anyway” is her favorite line at the tile store. Yet despite her self-avowed cheapskate husband’s subsequent protests that “we’ll be lucky to break even on this house,” they consistently make piles of dough. From there, they presumably reconcile, bone like hyenas in a suite at the Wynn, and plan Scott’s next series of real-estate seminars in some faraway place, where acolytes abound.

Flip or Flop, HGTV. This show is hosted by Tarek and Christina El Moussa, who have all the charisma of drywall. Tarek’s a medium-buff, medium-attractive, medium-fauxhawked dude who wears polo shirts and rolls around Orange County in an indistinguishable SUV—he’s a reno-porn robot, the most even-keeled and thus terminally boring character to ever grace the genre. Inevitably, he caves to the wishes of both contractors and his pretty blonde wife, whose accent seems lifted from SNL’s “Californians” skit. Despite constantly fretting that he won’t make another dime, he usually nets a shitload of cash, with a few notable exceptions justifying the Flop in the title. The show posits real estate as both a no-personality and a no-lose proposition, which is news to anyone who was alive in 2008.

Fixer Upper, HGTV. Boasting some 130,000 residents, David Koresh’s adopted hometown of Waco wouldn’t be considered a small town anywhere but in Texas, where “everything’s bigger!” cities just keep annexing adjoining suburbs until their populations clear a million. But I’ll be damned if Chip and Joanna Gaines don’t make you want to move there, what with their folksy chemistry and homes with chipped siding and a pile of cat litter in the living room that can be had for about $30,000. They’ve got a Duggar-lite brood and a goofy vibe: Chip occasionally eats cockroaches, and there’s no way either of these lovebirds have ever tasted alcohol. Joanna giggles and rips her ultra-bright, ultra-white design aesthetic wholesale from Pottery Barn, but when shit’s this cheap, clients weep.


Mike Seely just had his popcorn ceilings scraped in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter @mdseely.

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Lead image of Property Brothers courtesy YouTube.

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