HGTV Is the ‘Comfort Food’ of TV Right Now, Even Though We Know It’s All Fake

Usually calling a show fake isn’t meant to be a compliment. But in the case of HGTV programming, the opposite might be true. Fans of the network might not realize it, but they’re drawn to home renovation and home buying shows because they’re soothing, innocent, and completely opposite from how things are in the real world.

Anyone who’s ever done a simple home renovation project or shopped for a new home can attest that shows like House Hunters, Flip or Flop, and Property Brothers have very little resemblance to reality. But in some ways, that’s exactly what makes them so compelling. People would much rather view someone else swinging a sledgehammer and achieving dream home status in 30 perfectly edited minutes than they would break a sweat and do it themselves.

What do we love about HGTV? Everything, really.

Property Brothers
Property Brothers | Jason Davis/Getty Images for HGTV

HGTV is the ‘comfort food’ of television

There’s a time and place for action, violence, and dramatic shows. But life is hard enough as it is —instead, television viewers keep proving how much they prefer escapism. That’s why it makes total sense that HGTV is the third most-watched network on television right now.

“Our programming is the comfort food of TV,” Kathleen Finch, chief lifestyle brands officer at Discovery, explained in an interview with Washington Post. “Nobody dies, nobody gets hurt.”

Want proof? Some of the top-rated shows on the network include Flip or Flop, Property Brothers: Forever Home, Good Bones, My Lottery Dream House, Island Hunters, Hawaii Hunters, and Mexico Life.

Viewers are clearly daydreaming about winning the lottery and moving to Hawaii (or Mexico, or an island) to build their forever dream home. And who can blame them?

Show hosts are part of the appeal

Fixer Upper ended several years ago and still Chip and Joanna Gaines are household names. It’s obvious that HGTV viewers connect deeply with show hosts and see them as celebrities.

“Viewers love our talent. They [the hosts] can’t walk down the street without being mobbed,” Finch explained. She also said they embrace the home-owning vision. “Viewers also love the real estate. We give them something to dream about,” she said.

HGTV shows are like playing house for adults

Especially for people who aren’t homeowners, the shows on HGTV represent very aspirational goals and achieving the elusive “American Dream.”

“We are in the entertainment business,” Finch said in response to why people might have negative feedback about HGTV. “We celebrate family, the American Dream; we take the old and sad and make it lovely; we make people feel good.”

People need more happiness in their lives, not more stress

And at the heart, HGTV feels good and has almost no negativity — at least nothing that can’t be solved in under an hour. “There is a lot of bad news,” Mike Aubrey, former host of HGTV’s Get It Sold told Washington Post. “These programs give viewers an escape into something that gives them a full and happy heart. People need comfort.”

Yes, HGTV has an element of fakeness to it. But maybe that’s exactly what people need to see in this world right now.