Ed (the husband) and I are currently hooked on the cable television show “How It’s Made”, airing on Discovery Channel. It shows, step by step, how common objects (paintballs, golf balls, hotdogs, bubble gum, etc.) are manufactured. It’s wonderful. It succeeds because it doesn’t try to tart up the content. No corny hosts, no flashy graphics or dizzying transitions, and none of the damned fast forwards that infest so many of the shows on HGTV. Just information, straight up, like a neat scotch. The makers understand that the information itself is what’s valuable, and the production should be as transparent as possible. Which is not to say that it’s not well produced. You can tell that they put thought into creating a consistent visual style. This ain’t no stock footage. At its best, it captures hypnotic, beautiful images of machines working with mindless precision. It’s slow and unpretentious and relaxing to watch. As a producer I love the way the show structure lends itself to language versioning. Weak spots: the music beds are awful. This is an easy fix. Find some kid who does his own ambient stuff and cut a deal on an original music package in return for international exposure. Lose the distracting needle drop. They could also lose the puns. Really. But on the whole it’s a great example of content done right. You wouldn’t believe what a weird, drawn-out process it is to make a trumpet.
The show airs often, which means it must be pulling good numbers. Which means that people are watching. Other cable channels, take note: maybe the era of compelling content being undercut by saccharine, condescending production is coming to an end. In my dreams I get the job of taking all of HGTV’s raw footage, cutting out the hosts and doing trance remixes like this on all their shows. Hey Scripps, ready to evolve the HGTV brand? Or at least consider a cheap way to transform dated content into a sleek new franchise? Let’s tawk.