Bob Vila


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Posted on Sun, Nov. 28, 2004
On the House | Vila's shows keep focus on building, remodeling
By Al Heavens Inquirer Columnist
It has been exactly 25 years since the launch of This Old House with Bob Vila as host, and more than 15 years since he left the show.
Still, for most Americans, the two remain synonymous.
"I was at the Habitat for Humanity Awards in New York, and under my name in the brochure was This Old House," Vila said in a telephone interview.
"My wife asked me when I thought people would finally get it straight," he said. "They don't have to get it straight. I own part of the franchise."
Unlike his successor, Steve Thomas, who has been rarely seen on TV since his departure from the show in 2003 after a 14-year stint, Vila has never left the air.
Besides This Old House reruns for a number of years, there have been Home Again, a number of specials about older houses and styles, thousands of guest appearances, and Vila's continuing relationship with Sears and Craftsman tools.
The latest Home Again project, rehabbing a Brooklyn, N.Y., brownstone, debuted earlier this month and is being undertaken with his son, Chris, a real estate developer in New York. The show can be seen Saturdays at 4 a.m. on KYW-TV (Channel 3).
Vila readily acknowledges that the formula of his show hasn't changed much since 1979. In fact, he seems proud that it hasn't.
"It's a show about building and remodeling," Vila said. "We talk about construction methods, materials and technology."
Although he is unwilling to criticize the competition directly by mentioning names, he distinguishes what he does from what he calls "infotainment."
"These shows have an angle, like a carpenter who is Playmate of the Month or an actor who becomes a carpenter," Vila said. "Then there are the shows with the theme reminiscent of Queen for a Day. They have a different approach than I do. I'm here to teach; they are designed mainly to entertain."
Most of those shows also tend to rush their projects to completion.
"I can't comment on someone else's work because I haven't walked around it," Vila said, "but we do have a tradition in TV of building sets and calling them houses. It takes time to put together a solid house or rebuild one. Six months to do it right isn't unusual."
Has anyone pressured Vila to change his format?
"There has never been a discussion about changing," he said. "My partners at Sears and I talk about the subject matter, and I listen to what they suggest, but there is never any pressure on me to do 'reality' shows."
On the other hand, he said, "we do have real live people for an affordable shelter home we are doing in a small town in Massachusetts, and these folks will appear on the show."
The lack of pressure to change also could stem from the fact that "I'm not in prime time," Vila said. "There is a difference."
When Vila started with This Old House in fall 1979, "we were the only ones." Now, with entire television networks devoted to home improvement, the field has become very crowded.
"There is a danger that you can overdo it," Vila said. "And if you overdo anything, people will become less interested in watching any of it."
Vila, who dropped out of architecture school to start R.J. Vila Designer/Builder in Cambridge, Mass., after realizing how little architects were making, remains in the contracting business, and despite his busy schedule tries to do some projects around the house whenever he can.
His schedule is always more than full. I interviewed him by phone as he was being chauffeured to the Fox-TV studios in Manhattan after taping a segment at the job site in Brooklyn.
Vila left This Old House in 1989 after a dispute with creator/producer Russell Morash over Vila's product endorsements. He doesn't regret the move, and simply views his departure as disappointing rather than controversial.
"I was able to re-create myself and my production company, and carried on with what I'd tried to do for those 10 years on the show," Vila said.
"After I left This Old House, it changed, and changed a great deal," Vila said. "It became scripted, just like a sitcom.
"That's why I have no regrets," he said. "No regrets at all."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "On the House" appears Sundays in The Inquirer. Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472 or snipped-for-privacy@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/alheavens .
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2004 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.philly.com
Regards, Tom.
"People funny. Life a funny thing." Sonny Liston
Thomas J.Watson - Cabinetmaker (ret.) tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1
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The only reason Bob is seen so often is that he'll sell anything, anytime, anywhere.
Mike
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And as long as people continue to buy what he sells, he has a secure job. Is America great or what? Ed
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(snip)
Nor do we, Bob.
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His name is not Bob, it's Boob.

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Interestingly enough I just last night saw Steve Thomas on the History Channel hosting a program about the Jamestown(e?) colony.
The first time I ever saw Steve Thomas (pre-This Old House) was on PBS. It was a show about him sailing solo 'round the world.
OBWW Content: The Jamestown(e?) fort was made from wood as was Thomas' sail boat.
UA100, who gets the heebie-jeebies real bad every time he sees B*b V*l* smiling...
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His mouth smiles, but his eyes don't. This is a loan shark in Carhartts.
Bob
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Bob Schmall wrote:

I think Carhartts would burst into flames if they touched his slimy under belly.
At least that's what I would hope.
UA100
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<snip>

<snip>
I think that I may have a slightly different take. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Norm, Tommy, Richard and the rest of the gang. But if you are going to criticize Bob for being too "commercial", you have got to have a good hard laugh at PBS, Russ Morash et al for absolutely and totally embracing capitalism with "Ask This Old House, Behind This Old House (on A&E, featuring a lot of Bob Villa), This Old House & The New Yankee Workshop. Talk about "whoring" your work!
OTOH, I enjoy watching all of them!
I like Bob Villa's "Home Again" stuff because it is more adaptable to the everyday homeowner in many cases (I note that Riley is missing a few parts of a couple fingers).
TOH, though interesting, has become a show that few can identify with in that they literally spend millions of $ while still trying to relate to the "common" PBS audience to which they are supposedly serving.
Or maybe their audience is exactly whom they think it is.
Hmmmm....
(Still thinking Norm = God.)
Lou
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I was looking for that lawsuit against Bob by the guy who bought his house. While looking in google, I came up with another one: Bob's website has been spamming and was the very FIRST target of a Can-Spam lawsuit!
http://www.technewsworld.com/story/33074.html
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spake the words:

That bitch Villa can't dis Robin like that and get away with it, can he, guys? Let's all write in.

What he could teach, we all learned not to do at a very early age.

With the exception of seeing his face on so many crappy commercials, neither do we.

"Inquirer", huh? Right. I figured that a _real_ newspaper couldn't have done that interview with a straight face.
------------------------------------------------------------- give me The Luxuries Of Life * http://www.diversify.com i can live without the necessities * 2 Tee collections online -------------------------------------------------------------
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For a guy who used to blow into the set late, talk to no one, lord it over the rest and try not to get into the work being done by better qualified; Villa sure has a high opinion of himself. Can't say I miss him.
--
PDQ --
| spake the words: | | >"These shows have an angle, like a carpenter who is Playmate of the | >Month or an actor who becomes a carpenter," Vila said. "Then there are | | That bitch Villa can't dis Robin like that and get away with it, | can he, guys? Let's all write in. | | | >the shows with the theme reminiscent of Queen for a Day. They have a | >different approach than I do. I'm here to teach; they are designed | >mainly to entertain." | | What he could teach, we all learned not to do at a very early age. | | | >"That's why I have no regrets," he said. "No regrets at all." | | With the exception of seeing his face on so many crappy commercials, | neither do we. | | | > 2004 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources. All Rights | | "Inquirer", huh? Right. I figured that a _real_ newspaper couldn't | have done that interview with a straight face. | | | | ------------------------------------------------------------- | give me The Luxuries Of Life * http://www.diversify.com | i can live without the necessities * 2 Tee collections online | -------------------------------------------------------------
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Don't confuse the Phila Inquirer and National Enquirer. The former is a first rate newspaper.
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On Tue, 30 Nov 2004 15:59:53 -0500, "Buck Turgidson"

Actually, living in the Philadelphia area, The Inquirer is a second rate newspaper.
I'll tell you what Bob had right in what he said:
There are too many shows and TOH has gone the way of worshiping the gods of conspicuous consumption.
In my view, Bob was better than Steve and Steve is better than whoever this little pixie is that is doing the show now.
Bob acted just like a contractor and Norm acted just like a carpenter.
After Bob left it was all a show for the sponsors.
I know that Bob sold out - but he sold out to Sears.
Russ Morash sold out to people who can afford not to buy from Sears.
Fuck Russ Morash.
Regards, Tom.
"People funny. Life a funny thing." Sonny Liston
Thomas J.Watson - Cabinetmaker (ret.) tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1
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