Rick Schwolsky, Editor-in-Chief
Rick Schwolsky, Editor-in-Chief

OK, I'm probably the only person left in the world who doesn't get a kick out of "reality" TV shows–but I don't. If watching TV is a waste of precious time, then watching these "redesign a room in two days"/"build a mansion in a week" shows are the ultimate. I know I'm on shaky ground here, given their popularity, so forgive me if I'm bashing your new favorite pastime. But while we all need entertainment from time to time, watching people stress out over tiling somebody else's bathroom or picking a bold new wall color is, as they say, as boring as watching paint dry. Actually it's worse. It's as boring as watching somebody else watch paint dry.

I used to have customers ask me if I had seen one of the shows and the way they'd done something on TV, implying that they now knew how it was supposed to be done and that I had better be careful about how I did it. "The last thing I want to do at the end of the day," I'd reply, "is watch somebody else do what I do for a living. And besides, I was too busy preparing for the next phase of your project to watch anything."

I can see how the home-improvement shows would fascinate homeowners who have always wondered how we do certain things and wanted to learn more about tools and materials. I always encourage people (even civilians) to follow their passions and interests and grow their understanding and skills. And I'm not too proud to say that I enjoyed our customers' admiration and appreciation of our skills, and was always careful to maintain the mystique around building their homes. But somehow these shows have morphed into weird contests with pro carpenters and designers guiding amateurs through their stress-filled, over-wrought adventures that seem to care less about the underlying work and more about the "drama" surrounding it. I'd rather just watch the pros do the work.

Which brings me to my idea for the next "reality" show. I call it Final Payment.

Talk about stress and competition! How about following real contractors through real days on real jobs dealing with real problems, in search of their final payment from real customers? Every show would feature people who work real hard, struggle with real decisions, shed real blood, and expend real energy to make a real living. It would have all the ups and downs, triumphs and failures, drama and tension, and tears and laughter any TV producer could want. Maybe more. Sound like your life day-in and day-out?

Sure, we'd have to follow some of the other shows' ideas to grab market share. For example, we'd have to vote somebody off the job. But on Final Payment, it would be because they couldn't do the work, not because somebody back-stabbed or out-maneuvered them in front of a camera crew.

In many ways, our jobs are more entertaining than the extreme home improvement reality shows of the moment. And that's without producers, casting calls, or a homeowner screeching over the neon orange paint she didn't like. Working hard–and never stopping to watch the paint dry–is all the reality I need to see.