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The cult of ‘Fixer Upper’

The living room and kitchen of a newly renovated home, as seen on “Fixer Upper.”HGTV

Update: Upcoming season of HGTV’s ‘Fixer Upper’ will be the last

There’s not a whole lot going on in Waco, Texas. I’m sorry Waco, Texas, but it’s true. I’ve driven through you at legal speeds.

There’s a fossilized mammoth that’s not going anywhere. There’s the Dr. Pepper Museum. There’s a business literally dedicated to escaping. There’s a Chik-fil-A that gets pretty busy. There’s Baylor.

Despite this spread of attractions, there are also a number of disproportionately slick Airbnbs available in Waco. Some of them are the main draw for tourists.


Why? One word: Shiplap. And two other supplementary words: “Fixer Upper.”

As the Star Tribune put it in the kind of headline that really requires no further elaboration, “Waco, Texas, is suddenly cool because of HGTV’s ‘Fixer Upper’ couple.”

That would be Chip and Joanna Gaines, the coupled cohosts of HGTV’s runaway renovation hit. Together, they’re making Waco great again by snatching up the ugliest houses in the nicest neighborhoods, and with a little elbow grease, a lot of acoustic guitars, and at least one giant Roman numeral clock, flip them into the homes/revenue streams of reliably straight couples’ dreams.

Mixing the unpredictability of a job site with the lulling regularity of a baby swing, each episode unfolds exactly like this:

Chip and Joanna meet couple, show them three dumpy houses with cute names (commercial breaks are employed to leverage suspense); couple chooses house you wouldn’t have chosen; design consult with Joanna, who offers choice of pergola, French doors, or porch swing; all systems go; all systems no, major issue arises; budget adjusted, crisis averted; Chip puts head/legs/self through drywall; Joanna rolls eyes, smiles, and shrugs: they are in love; Joanna directs furniture movers where to put giant poofy couches and tables made of sentimentally repurposed wood; Gaines children visit job site, give Joanna “that extra boost to push through” or something to that effect; Joanna spends night installing pipe shelves, quote art, scattering pillows, and stacking fake books; couple returns for reveal; reveal; crying; fin. Repeat.


You can use that paragraph as a kind of bingo card for Tuesday’s episode at 8 p.m., when they help a couple downsize and retire to the country. (Or just, you know, rent the thing out and make a fortune.) If you end up obsessively binging and fantasizing about putting every door in your house on rails, don’t say you weren’t warned. “Fixer Upper” is aspirational design porn for anyone who has ever felt the pull of Pier 1, or found love a hopeless Restoration Hardware.

And don’t hold your breath for them to come tearing through your triple decker. For now, you can only behold their handiwork in Waco — which, I hear is very . . . Waco this time of year.

Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at mbrodeur@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur.