Offbeat America

Arts & Entertainment: Offbeat America

Offbeat AmericaWhat kind of person covers every square inch of their living space with art supplies or crochets sweaters for everything in their house including the eggs in the refrigerator? A Tacky Living reader, of course, but in the HGTV show Offbeat America, we get an up close and personal look at other people whose interests and obsessions have not only taken wing, but have flown off cackling with demented glee.

Each half hour episode takes us on a rapid tour of five or six deliciously warped homes, focussing on their design and history. Typical offerings include:

  • A tour of a labyrinthine castle with cannons, greco-romanesque statues, towers, torches, moat and drawbridge. The garden includes a waterfall and a wonderful pastiche of historically unrelated elements picked up at local garden centers.
  • A “space age” home circa 1960 or 70, with irising doorways that lurch rather than glide open.
  • A yard filled with hundreds of painted bowling balls, a situation far less innocuous than one might suspect.
  • A house “decked out with incredible glass creations”, demonstrating that in some cases, being offbeat requires great skill and deep pockets.
  • A home in San Francisco on which every square inch of wall is gleefully plastered with pencils and other art supplies.

Given the material the show’s host, Patrick Clark, could easily play it for cheap laughs, falling into the obvious trap of making fun of the “weirdos”. Instead, he’s careful not to overshadow the subject matter and treats it with a mixture of respect and enjoyment, asking the questions we’d like to ask ourselves. Sometimes this is no simple matter.

The show is at its best when it showcases people following their own odd personal visions. It takes guts, after all, to be really different. Some of the homes make us marvel at the person’s artistry or ingenuity. Others make us say “I could do that”, or perhaps “thank goodness I haven’t done that yet, but if things keep going south at work, I might just be tempted”.

In the end, perhaps the most valuable message the show delivers is “why not?”: “Build a working roller coaster in the yard? Why not? What else am I going to do in retirement?” or “shingle my house with flattened soda cans? Why not?”

Indeed, why not?

Offbeat America airs Sundays at 9 pm e/p on HGTV. More information can be found on HGTV’s website.

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