This Old House
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|This Old House|
|Created by||Russell Morash (through WGBH-TV)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||40|
|No. of episodes||1,003 (as of February 23, 2019) (list of episodes)|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||This Old House Ventures (since 2001) |
|Original network||PBS, syndication|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|Original release||February 20, 1979 –|
|Related shows||Ask This Old House, Inside This Old House, The New Yankee Workshop|
|This Old House|
This Old House is an American home improvement media brand with television shows, a magazine and a website, ThisOldHouse.com. The brand is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut. The television series airs on the American television network Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and follows remodeling projects of houses over a number of weeks. Boston PBS station WGBH-TV originally created the program and produced it from its inception in 1979 until 2001 when Time Inc. acquired the television assets and formed This Old House Ventures. WGBH also distributed episodes to PBS until 2019 when WETA-TV became the distributor starting with the first episode of season 41. Warner Bros. Domestic Television distributes the series to commercial television stations in syndication. Time Inc. launched This Old House magazine in 1995, focusing on home how-to, know-how and inspiration.
In 2016, Time Inc. sold This Old House Ventures to executive Eric Thorkilsen and private equity firm TZP Growth Partners (although it will continue to have a special partnership deal with its former parent company).
This Old House and its sister series Ask This Old House are often broadcast together as The This Old House Hour, which was originally known as The New This Old House Hour. Both shows are owned by This Old House Ventures, Inc. and are underwritten by GMC and The Home Depot. Weyerhauser lumber distributor, a previous underwriter, by 1989 had donated more than $1,000,000 a year to the show. This Old House is also underwritten by State Farm Insurance, HomeServe, and Marvin Windows and Doors. Other underwriters throughout the show's tenure included Parks Corporation, Glidden paints, Montgomery Ward, Ace Hardware, Kohler plumbing, Schlage locks, Century 21 Real Estate, Toro lawnmowers/snowblowers, ERA Real Estate, Angie's List, Mitsubishi Electric, and Lumber Liquidators, Inc. Two of the original underwriters were Weyerhauser and Owens-Corning.
The third series to share the name is Inside This Old House, a retrospective featuring highlights from previous episodes. Old episodes are also shown under the program name This Old House Classics and were formerly shown on The Learning Channel under the name The Renovation Guide. Only the episodes with original host Bob Vila aired under that name. As of 2006[update], Classics are also carried on the commercial non-broadcast DIY Network as well as syndicated to local TV stations.
This Old House was one of the earliest home improvement shows on national television. As such, it was initially controversial among building contractors, and the cast was afraid that they were giving away secrets of the building trades. However, as time passed, the show grew into a cultural icon. Producer-director Russell Morash became known as the "Father of How-To."
Begun in 1979 as a one-time, 13-part series airing on WGBH, This Old House has grown into one of the most popular programs on the network. It has produced spin-offs (notably The New Yankee Workshop hosted by Norm Abram), a magazine, and for-profit web sites. The show has won 17 Emmy Awards and received 82 nominations.
Although WGBH acquired the first two project houses (6 Percival Street in Dorchester and the Bigelow House in Newton) for renovation, the series then focused on renovating older houses, including those of modest size and value, with the homeowners doing some of the work, as a form of sweat equity. The series covering the renovation of the Westwood house (Weatherbee Farm) became something of a cult classic because of an escalating dispute between the hosts, Vila and Abram, and the homeowners over the direction the project was taking. Vila remarked at the end of the Westwood series that the owners could have contributed more "sweat equity." As the show evolved, it began to focus on higher-end, luxury homes with more of the work done by expert contractors and tradespeople.
Vila left This Old House in 1989 following a dispute about doing commercials and created a similar show called Bob Vila's Home Again. According to news reporter Barbara Beck, Vila was fired by WGBH Boston over making TV commercials for Rickel Home Centers, Home Depot's competitor. Home Depot, the show's underwriter, dropped its local sponsorship for This Old House after Vila made the commercials. Vila was fired in an effort to have Home Depot return as a sponsor to the show. During Vila's tenure, the show drew 11 million viewers and had won five Emmys. Weyerhauser, at this time a supplier for Home Depot, stopped underwriting the show. Steve Thomas took over hosting duties after Vila's departure, remaining with the program until 2003. Cast members later complained that Vila took up too much screen time, and noted that the show became more of an ensemble production after he left.
Kevin O'Connor is the current host of This Old House. Before O'Connor joined the cast, he was a homeowner who appeared on Ask This Old House, having problems with wallpaper removal. While O'Connor has been the host, Abram's role has increased to that of a near co-host. In at least a couple of season opening episodes (Cambridge, Carlisle, and Austin), Abram has appeared with O'Connor to introduce the new project. Abram also filled in for O'Connor when his son was born during the Carlisle project.
To celebrate its 30th anniversary season, This Old House worked with Nuestra Comunidad to renovate a foreclosed home in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. Nuestra Comunidad is a non-profit development corporation that acquired this 1870s-era Second Empire home from a bank.
In 2016, Time Inc. sold This Old House to a joint venture operating as This Old House Ventures, LLC.
To celebrate the 40th season in 2019, a retrospective and revisit of some of the more notable projects was incorporated into a handful of episodes with some of the original homeowners providing tours. The first house highlighted was the original project house in Dorchester.
From the show's debut in 1979 until 2002, This Old House used the first theme song "Louisiana Fairy Tale," composed by Haven Gillespie, Mitchell Parish and J. Fred Coots and performed by 20th-century jazz artist Fats Waller. The theme song was changed after This Old House Ventures acquired the series from WGBH. The second theme song, called "This Old House '97", was composed by Peter Bell. A new theme song followed that in 2009. Bill Janovitz wrote the show's current theme song in 2012.
Ask This Old House
In 2002, Time Inc. created Ask This Old House.
The show was inspired by a similar feature in This Old House Magazine. It takes place in "the loft" of a rural barn somewhere in the Boston area. The regulars on the show are O'Connor, Tom Silva, Richard Trethewey, and Roger Cook. Norm Abram does not appear on Ask This Old House.
Magazine readers or show viewers submit home repair or improvement questions to the four regulars. Guest experts answer more specialized questions. Most of the questions are answered in the loft, but one or two homeowners in each episode receive a visit from one of the show's tradesmen. The visits come from a guest tradesman if the project is related to electrical or painting needs. The tradesman assists in starting or completing the task with the homeowners' help. O'Connor sometimes assists in these projects.
Ask This Old House also has a feature entitled "What Is It?". Three of the four regulars offer humorous guesses as to the function of an unusual tool. The fourth regular reveals its actual use. Beginning with the 2007/08 season, Ask This Old House added a "useful tip" segment provided by a viewer of the show. The useful tip segment is a revival of a short-lived feature of This Old House when Vila hosted the show.
The opening sequence of Ask This Old House consisted of a GMC van towing the blue Ask This Old House trailer from around Boston and rural Massachusetts before finally reaching its destination, the barn. The twenty-five-second version of the opening sequence shows Silva, the passenger, picking up four coffees from a drive-through. The forty-second version of the opening sequence shows Kevin O'Connor as the driver. In both versions, after the van pulls into the barn driveway, the footage cuts to Trethewey handing out the coffees to the other three regulars.
Prior to Kevin O'Connor's installation as host, the van driver was Steve Thomas, the host for the show's first season.
Ask This Old House has been nominated for five Emmy Awards.
This Old House magazine
This Old House magazine was first published in 1995 by Time Inc. Published 8 times per year, the magazine has a circulation of over 950,000 and reaches nearly 6 million consumers each month. Nathan Stamos is the publisher.
As of April 1, 2016, Susan Wyland, best known for her tenure on Time Inc.’s Real Simple magazine, became the magazine's editor in chief, replacing Scott Omelianuk, who had been editor for 12 years. 
ThisOldHouse.com is the brand's website and features how-to projects, inspiration and tips for homeowners. The website also serves as the online destination for the television show and includes bios on the cast and information on all of the home projects, and live webcams of the current house projects.
Inside This Old House
Now defunct spin-off of the This Old House franchise, Inside This Old House was shown primarily on the A&E Network, and originally aired from 2003 to 2004. The show was very much like Ask This Old House: it was shot mainly in the "loft", hosted by O'Connor and features the regular experts listed above and also Abram (master carpenter). However, unlike Ask This Old House, usually one or two experts were used throughout the episode and a specific theme was discussed. The theme was usually a particular topic (e.g. landscaping, installing doors, etc.). Along with the in-house expert, and sometimes a guest expert, clips were shown of past episodes of This Old House (mainly the original episodes with Bob Vila) to further illustrate the point, as well as revisiting past projects undertaken over the previous twenty-five years to see what the homeowners have done since airing. Each episode ended with a segment called "Inside Out", which featured one of two guest commentators Jimmy Dunn and Doreen Vigue, and one of the experts, with a brief and comedic overview of what was discussed on the show.
This Old House: Trade School
In 2017, The CW network began airing a new spin-off, This Old House: Trade School. It is also hosted by Kevin O'Connor, and features the stars of This Old House: Norm Abram, Tom Silva, Richard Trethewey and Roger Cook, showing what it is like to work alongside these seasoned pros. Some of the content may be repackaged from This Old House.
As of 2018[update], the cast is as follows:
- Norm Abram (Master carpenter)
- Roger Cook (Landscape contractor)
- Tom Silva (General contractor)
- Richard Trethewey (Plumbing and HVAC)
- Scott Caron (Electrical contractor)
- Jennifer Nawada Evans (Landscape contractor)
- Mark McCullough (Mason)
- Jeff Sweenor (Builder)
- Mauro Henrique (Painter)
- Ross Trethewey (Home technology expert)
The first host of This Old House was remodeling expert Bob Vila. He hosted the program from the 1979 to 1989. He was followed by Steve Thomas, who took over after Vila's departure. He hosted the program from 1989 to 2003. Kevin O'Connor took over as the show's current host since replacing Steve Thomas in 2003.
Television Production team
As of 2013[update], the television production team is as follows:
- Russell Morash (Creator)
- Chris Wolfe (General Manager, This Old House Productions)
- John Tomlin (Senior Series Producer, This Old House)
- Heath Racela (Senior Series Producer, Ask This Old House)
Like many successful programs, This Old House has found its way into the humorist's eye on occasion. The most famous example is Tool Time, the "show-within-a-show" on the American television situation comedy Home Improvement. Tim Allen played Tim Taylor, a character inspired by Bob Vila, while Richard Karn portrayed Al Borland, a character based on Norm Abram. Bob Vila also guest-starred from time to time as Tim's rival and archenemy; in one episode in 1994, Vila challenged Tim to a hot rod race and Tim tells Vila that he will kick Vila back to "That Old House" and Vila tells Tim that he's no longer on "This Old House" and that he started a new show called "Home Again" and Tim said he'll kick Vila "Home Again."
HBO's Hardcore TV also parodied This Old House as "This Old Whore House", "This Old House of Style", and "This Old House Party". Bill Nye the Science Guy did a parody called "This Old Brain", as well as "This Old Climate", both featured Pat Cashman as Bob Liam.
Almost Live!, a Seattle sketch comedy show, also parodied This Old House as "This Here Place", which featured Pat Cashman as Bob Bobbin. Fox's In Living Color parodied This Old House as "This Ol' Box", in which Damon Wayans portrayed a homeless person who talks about renovating a large cardboard box where he lived. The Disney Channel's Mickey Mouse Club parodied the show as "This Old Home", which featured renovations on the candy house from Hansel and Gretel. In 1986, Late Night with David Letterman parodied This Old House as "This House Needs Work", where Chris Elliott portrayed a fix-it man.
Long-running sketch comedy venue Saturday Night Live parodied This Old House several times, one in 1988 with John Larroquette, and one in 2003 with Liam Neeson. Another 1989 Saturday Night Live sketch featured Phil Hartman hosting a fictitious PBS show called "Robot Repair." The sketch had Hartman playing a sentient robot who instructed viewers on how to repair home appliances. Out of concern that the term "Robot Repair" suggested the repair of robots and not the actual theme of the show, the robot begged the producers for a new title, only to find that with each week, the title's wording got progressively confusing e.g., "Robot Repair and You". The poor robot's frustration finally turned to meltdown when the producers presented the show as "This Old Robot."
Fox's long running sketch comedy show Mad TV did a parody called "This Cold House". In the seventh season of the second series of ZOOM, there was a parody of This Old House which was known as "This Old Place". There, "Abe Norman" (a parody of Norm Abram) played by Kyle Morrow, would fix something (example: washing machine) that would never end up as it should. On one occasion, he put a gown in a washing machine and it came out as the shirt he was wearing currently.
- "History of This Old House". This Old House. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
- Lieberman, David (April 1, 2016). "Time Inc. Sells 'This Old House' To Eric Thorkilsen, Who Created The Franchise". Deadline. Retrieved May 14, 2016.
- Barr, Jeremy (April 1, 2016). "Time Inc. Sells 'This Old House' Magazine, Brand". Advertising Age. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
- Beck, Barbara (April 4, 1989). "Was 'This Old House' host fired for wrong commercial endorsements?". Modesto Bee. Modesto, California: Knight-Rider Newspapers. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
- Storrs, Francis (February 2009). "This Old House: An Oral History". Boston Magazine.
- Collins, Geneva (June 23, 1997). "Russell Morash: This old Yankee leads a guerrilla crew". Current.
- Bob Vila's This Old House (1981), ISBN 0-525-47670-9, pages 22 to 39.
- Sharpsteen, Bill (June 22, 1997). "If I Were a Carpenter". The Los Angeles Times.
- Steve Black (2009). "Life spans of Library Journal's "Best Magazines of the Year"". Serials Review. 35 (4): 213–217. doi:10.1080/00987913.2009.10765248.
- "Top 100 U.S. Magazines by Circulation" (PDF). PSA Research Center. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
- "Our Products". August 26, 2016. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
- O'Shea, Chris (June 5, 2013). "Nathan Stamos Named This Old House Publisher". FishbowlNY. Mediabistro.com. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
- Steinberg, Brian (April 1, 2016). "Time Inc. Sells 'This Old House' To New Owner". Variety. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
- "This Old House: Trade School".