Sunday, March 31, 2024

Comfort TV.

We must be in the waning days of the knock-on effects of last year's SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes. A lot of shows' production schedules were delayed by the strikes, so new episodes are just beginning to filter down to your favorite channels or apps. 

I am not complaining about the strikes. They were good and necessary. People need to be compensated fairly for their work -- and they also deserve protection from greedy producers and studio heads who would rather use performers' past work to generate AI than continue to pay flesh-and-blood performers for new work.

But while good and necessary, the strikes have had an effect on this year's programming, to the point where I'm kind of champing at the bit for new episodes of my favorite shows.

So I've been watching a lot of comfort TV (which I have written about before, here and here). A lot of streaming channels show old episodes of '90s reality TV, which I've never had any interest in watching for a variety of reasons. But I was pretty excited when I discovered that the Roku Channel has all 44 past seasons of  This Old House

duh84 | Deposit Photos

You probably wouldn't take me for a person who'd be excited about watching other people renovate a house. But I find it relaxing and kind of soothing. All the guys (and they are virtually all men) are professional contractors. They are capable and confident. They're good at explaining what they're doing and why -- and in some cases, particularly on the spinoff Ask This Old House, they teach homeowners how to tackle certain projects themselves. It's kind of like watching Bob Ross, except with power tools. 

I started watching because as a homeowner myself now, I wanted to learn some of lingo that home repair guys use. I've lived in apartments for a very long time; when something would go wrong, I'd call the leasing office and they'd send over a maintenance guy (who might or might not actually fix the problem, but that's a different rant). Those days are over for me; now I'm at the mercy of contractors. And I'd like to know something about what they're talking about -- and not incidentally, whether it's worth trying to do the thing myself.

Not for nothing, 44 seasons of This Old House plus 22 seasons of Ask This Old House equals a lot of comfort TV.

Roku has a separate channel for the really old episodes, back when Bob Vila was the host. The show was originally broadcast on WGBH, the PBS station in Boston, and focused on houses in the Northeast. It's fun to play "spot the current cast member" when watching the oldest shows -- carpenter Norm Abram and plumber Rich Trethewey were so young in 1979. I recently saw an episode that must have been Tom Silva's tryout -- he was so young that the only thing I recognized about him was his voice.

Vila left the show in 1989 because he didn't want to have to do commercials for the sponsors. Steve Thomas then took over as host. He left in 2003, and that's when the current host, Kevin O'Connor, joined the show. 

TOH has spawned several spinoff series and a magazine. New shows still air on PBS stations, but ownership of the production company has changed a number of times. Roku has owned This Old House Ventures since 2021, the same year the shows went into syndication.

TOH occasionally gets out of New England. I was particularly entertained by the six episodes in season 11 in which Bob and Norm came out to Santa Fe. The local general contractor (whose company is still in business -- I looked him up) had great fun educating Norm on Santa Fe style. (The closed captions mangled the Spanish names of elements of the style. It's spelled latilla, not latia, for cryin' out loud!) 

One somewhat unexpected side effect of watching all this power-tool porn: I'm starting to think that maybe I need to acquire some power tools of my own. Even though I have nowhere to put them. Or room for a workshop.

Luckily for my bank account, the fifth season of Star Trek Discovery starts this Thursday, and I have zero interest in acquiring a starship.


I heard that: "What's a latilla?" 

Santa Fe style borrows elements from both Pueblo Indian architecture and Territorial style. Buildings are made from adobe (although these days, it's wood frame or concrete with stucco on top) and have flat roofs. Ceiling joists are known as vigas and are often just logs with the bark peeled off. The ends stick out through the side walls of the structure. The latillas are set across the vigas, closely together. The original builders would put sod on top of the latillas, but now they use regular insulation and roofing materials. (A lot of times in new construction, the builder will use modern techniques, coat the building in stucco, and stick fake viga ends on the front.)

Other Spanish terms that are common to the style: a nicho is a niche in a wall, originally for a statue of a saint (aka a bulto) but now for your shampoo in the shower; a banco is a banquette, a bench built into the wall, originally of adobe but nowadays wood-framed and covered in plaster; a portal (pronounced por-TAHL, not POR-tuhl) is a covered porch supported by log pillars with carved corbels; and a canale is a channel for water to drain off a flat roof. You'll also see kiva fireplaces, which are set in a corner and have rounded fronts instead of square. In fact, most edges are rounded in Pueblo Revival style.

You'll see some other architectural styles around here, including Greek Revival and a bit of Spanish Revival, but Pueblo Revival and Territorial style make up the biggest chunk of Santa Fe style. Here's more, if you're interested.


These comforting moments of blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe! And happy Easter!

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