Bang for Your Buck

I love this show.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, Bang for Your Buck is an HGTV show where a designer and real estate expert compare three renovations of the same room with the same budget in similar neighborhoods.  It’s not a perfect comparison because even though the homeowners spend the same amount of money, some of them do work themselves, so their renovations are usually better because they didn’t have to spend money on labor.  The show is still amazing.  It combines competition, home improvement, voyerism, cost-benefit analysis, and often irritating homeowners.  What’s not to love?   It can even be used to teach narrative structure and themes!

Narrative Structure:

1. Exposition: We meet all three homeowners as they go through their homes explaining their renovation choices.  We get to see before and after pictures, which I LOVE.  They’re kind of like those ads you see for acne medication or weight loss products where they make the before picture as atrocious as photoshop will allow.

2. Rising Action: We watch, along with the homeowners, as the designer and real estate expert walk through each home and comment about what they like, don’t like, and what they think future buyers will think.

3. Conflict: The homeowners often shout at the computer screen as the designer and real estate expert express their concerns with their choices.  This is hilarious because the homeowners often get really self-righteous even though they have no expertise.  My favorite was the woman who said “Why would you want all your kitchen hardware to match?  That’s so boring!”  There’s a good deal of homeowner self-denial that happens here too, like the man who didn’t think anyone would notice that his cabinet handles were not level because they were “only” 1/4″ different!  The conflict between the designer and real estate expert is much more muted.  They usually just disagree about design choices vs what future buyers will want/expect.

4. Climax/Falling Action: Even though finding out your return on investment is ostensibly the point of the show, the really exciting part is the aforementioned drama.  The falling action really happens before the climax in this show, which is unusual, but works here.  The designer and real estate expert sit down together and recap each home and then the real estate expert tells viewers how much each homeowner can expect as a % return on their investment.  Then, after recapping each renovation, they say “and that means, ___ got the most bang for her/his buck!”

5. Resolution: Regardless of whether they got the most bang for their buck, each homeowner defends their choices and says something to the effect of “I didn’t do this for the investment, I did it because I love my new room and I wouldn’t do anything differently.”


1. Man vs Man: There’s competition between 3 people/couples who never actually meet each other, between the home owners and the designer and real estate expert, between the home owners when they’ve disagreed with how to do their renovation, and even between the designer and real estate expert!

2. Man vs Himself: HGTV picks very confident individuals for this show, so this isn’t a major theme, but every once in a while, you can see a glimmer of self-doubt where a homeowner will say something like “Oh yeah, we should have done that.”  This is where, as a viewer, I have the most empathy with the homeowners who are otherwise usually pretty obnoxious.  I mean, when faced with a gazillion choices, it’s hard to make one, especially if you have FOMA!

3. Man vs Society: This is most evident when it comes to marble.  I have no idea why marble elicits the most passionate responses from people.  Yes, realtors always want it and assume all homeowners want it too, but homeowners on this show love to pretend like they know better and that marble is passe.  I personally love marble and would probably air on the side of marble in a renovation with future sellers in mind, but who am I to thwart an anti-marble trend?

I can’t wait to spend Friday night watching Bang for Your Buck!


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