My favorites, but I'm not sure I can rank them.
A Baby Story
I know, it's not a fix it show. But every episode is inspiring. The whole "home" thing kicks into gear when babies come. Decorating is frivolous in comparison.
This Old House and This Old House spin offs
I wonder, what took so long? Sometimes I think TOH spawned the growth of cable television, just so I could watch HGTV. And I'll confess right here that I liked Bob Villa then and now. During our 1980's Reeder renovation our contractors joke that Bob Villa was the Marlin Perkins of builders. If you recall Wild Kingdom, Marlin would narrate while Jim Fowler wrested anacondas in the swamp. Bob was more on the narrative side of the show.
TOH played by the PBS rule of trying to make us better persons. That is, they mixed history in with the hard work. But it has the hook of American Idol: It takes forever to finish and every episode is a cliff hanger. For me the difference is that I want an Idol episode to last about 10 minutes but TOH to last 2 hours. Can't we have a 10 hour TOH episode so we can see the whole project in one sitting?
Maybe more than anything, TOH is an appreciation of tradesmen / craftsmen and how they earn their money. In every episode This Old House convinced me that I really couldn't do it myself. Schools these days train kids for desk jobs. We'd all be happier if we students has a chance to study building.
The New Yankee Workshop and Norm Abram
This is another "I can't even hope to do it myself" show. It's an homage to craftsmen, beautiful historic furniture, tools, and time compression. Norm manages to apply 10 coats of varnish - sanding between coats - in the last 3 minutes of every show. He makes me feel very small next to a craftsman.
It's a gimmicky decorating game show with personalities. We love it because they finish two rooms in a single episode and, of course we love Paige.
Room By Room
Matt and Shari are corny and don't decorate for the avant garde. Not good for prime time TV. They do cover a lot of ground on every show. They stress fundamental design principals in rooms that our moms would feel comfortable in. The rooms aren't exciting but they work.
It's the realism. Kenneth Brown always talks about two things the other shows don't: time and money. Every show also has problem to overcome and a significant design change while the work is in progress. I think his designs are spectacular. But is Kenneth for real?
Yes. Kenneth best demonstrates the non-design essentials of design work. He sells and he loves the process. His work is beautiful.
Divine Design with Candice Olson
Candice uses the diva approach to her show and adds corny skits. Unlike reDesign we don't hear much about time, money, or the customers. But the designs are spectacular.
More to come...