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Thursday, April 10, 2014


Scott over @ Flight Plan recently mentioned the show “This Old House” and whether or not Bob Villa knew his stuff.  I believe that he did.  I think he was a general contractor who developed the concept for “This Old House.”

I loved that show.   Bob would pick a home and home owner to do a remodel, and then film the process for the show.   He selected a home owner based on the project, and on his ability to provide “sweat equity” (do much of the work) with the help of expert carpenter, Norm Abrams, heating and plumbing expert, Rich Trethewey, and other specialists in the various trades required to remodel a home.

Typically Bob chose a Cape where the owner wanted to add a room and a bath.   The owner would be a blue collar worker who was somewhat handy and was willing to work hard.  I loved that show and learned a lot from it, even though I never tackled any such major construction jobs.

What I also remember is the project that “Jumped the shark.”  Actually not so much “Jumped the shark” as simply changed the nature of the show in a way in which I was not able to connect.

Bob took on the job of completely renovating a 100+ year old home owned by two yuppies that were afraid to soil their hands. 

The show tried to follow the usual format, but it just did not work.

 In the first episode, Bob tried to teach the wife to strip wall paper, not a fun job.  The wife showed up in a dainty little dress, slipped on some rubber gloves and bitched and complained about every step of the process, all the while tending to her precious little girl, Hanna. 

“This is hard!”

“You’ll get the hang of it.”

“I broke a nail…Waa!”

“Well that’s what sweat equity is all about.”

“I don’t like this.”


The wife stripped about two feet of wall paper, they made some excuse, and a professional came in and finished the job.  We never saw the wife or Hanna again.

The husband was given the job of removing some old pipes in the basement.  Norm showed him how to whack the pipes on the seams with an eight pound sledge until they broke and then could be taken down.

“Give it a good firm rap like this.”

CLANG…CLANG…CLANG and the pipe broke.

“You try.”

“Ok” Said the wimpy husband as he adjusted his glasses which kept slipping down the bridge of his nose.


“No, harder, really give it a crack.”

Ding…ding…ding.  “This is hard.”

“HIT IT! Like this.”



“I can’t do it…Waa!”

And the husband was never seen again.   The project was finished without sweat equity and Bob and his crew turned a $500,000 fixer upper into a $1,000,000 spectacular mansion.

The show was forever changed.   All new projects were enormous and involved nothing but the best, most upscale additions.  The owners did nothing except Ooh and Ahh and say how they loved everything.

Bob Villa left the show because he became a spokesman for Sears and PBS didn’t like anyone profiting from the show or their fame…what a concept. 

I think Bob also just didn’t like the way the show changed from blue collar sweat equity to rich, yuppie, “Can we have heated floors in our zillion dollar bathroom” whiners.

I miss the original “This Old House.” I cannot watch the new “This Ol Mansion.”


  1. Bob Villa was the face of the show, but he had very limited technical expertise. A number of years ago Norm Abram and the next personable talking head who replaced Vila....I can't remember his name....were attending the National Assoc of Homebuilders convention and I had a chance to visit briefly with them. I innocently asked what Bob Vila was doing these days and they both scowled and said, "Who cares". It seems there was considerable friction between Vila and the "experts" on the show. They couldn't/wouldn't say more. My favorite today is Tom Silva. It's obvious to me he knows his stuff.


    1. I was a big Bob Vila fan...thanks for busting my bubble! His replacement was a kid who was famous for rowing across the ocean or some such thing, pretty sure he knew squat. My favorite is Norm, probably because my carpentry skills involve measure twice cut once, then cut once more, then toss the wood and try again.

  2. Hey, don't shoot the messenger, Joe. The sailor boy was the guy I met that didn't seem capable of doing much more than smiling into a camera.

    I agree, I'm a Norm fan, too. At one time I had a garage shop that I thought would enable me to build all kinds of projects just like Norm. I found I was missing only one little thing: Norm's talent.

  3. I too used to enjoy "This Old House", but there was always something about Bob Villa that just didn't sit right with me. Not sure what it was.
    One of my distant relations used to be in the habit of lovingly calling me "Bob Villa", and I would sort of cringe on the inside. Didn't have the heart to tell her that I didn't really find that all that complimentary.
    My impression was that he knew f**k all.
    But maybe I'm just an arrogant prick.

  4. Jim occasionally watched the show but he was usually out doing his own remodel (or I should say "my" remodel ideas). And he wouldn't let me watch the show because he was afraid I'd come up with more ideas for him.

  5. I remember this show, but I missed the yuppie part. I'm happy about that. I can't stand show whiners and they can whine.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  6. I never watched the show when Bob was the host. I remember the guy after him. Dave or Steve? It was enjoyable and I don't ever recall them interacting with the home owners.

  7. never watched it, but i do know who bob villa is. :)

  8. I liked Norm's The Yankee Workshop.
    Occasionally I see a show called Ask This Old House.
    It seems to involve sweat equity and is informative.

  9. Actually Bob Vila did not have near as much experience as the rest of the folks on the show but the part that drew me to him was that he never let pride get in the way. If he didn't know, he asked. If he hadn't done, he'd ask for a demonstration. Norm was always my favorite but from all reports he has Bob to thank for being 'discovered'.

    I do recall the project that went overboard. Yuck

    The clown prince they hired to replace Bob, Steve, was a true ignoramous. I will never forget his first series about converting a barn into a house. Steve talked as though he knew stuff and everything single thing he said was proven wrong over the ensuing weeks. He was so bad we stopped watching for years after that.

    We still don't watch much of the show because they only do the big stuff but Ask This Old House takes it back to its roots and we enjoy that.

    1. I haven't watched it lately, but yes, "Ask This Old House" is a good show.

  10. My husband always watched it. Our home inspector obviously imitated the show and admitted that he liked it when I asked him about it.

  11. I got off This Old House, but I like all the men, Tom, Richard, Roger, Norm. They know their stuff of Ask This Old House.

  12. I remember the show. I learned a few things from that show and understood the fact that construction is totally different in America when compared to India.

  13. I vaguely remember watching This Old House, but it was so long ago and only on a few occasions that I don't remember too much about it.

    I sort of like some of the shows on HGTV ("Property Brothers" and "Income Property" come to mind) that deal with a similar topic, but I do realize that a lot of this stuff is show and glitz and glamour. Personally, I have a lot more experience with moving than with home improvement projects.

  14. I used to watch This Old House. Then my husband started watching Norm Abram's New Yankee Workshop. I was not to interested until that time I heard Norm talking about BISCUITS! Well. I most certainly had to get in there and see these biscuits. I was SO disappointed to find out that Norm's biscuits were only discs of wood that he was using to join his cabinet together.

  15. I originally watched both Bob and Norm mainly to maybe learn something that I could use. I would be really smart for an hour or so, then it would be gone. Thank goodness for Google.

  16. Gosh I remember that show. Of course my hubby is more like The Red Green Show just joking but it feels that way with our latest project- remodeling the master bath.