Well, I don't personally hate him. Don't even know the guy. (Certainly
no fan of his, though.)
But that's the title of the latest piece by one of my favorite
columnists in the /Berkeley Daily Planet/, Matt Cantor, local owner of a
home-inspection business who writes a weekly column on home repair and
Here's a sample:
I do genuinely hate these specific shows: "Hometime," "This Old House"
and "The New Yankee Workshop." I hate them for one simple reason: they
make most people feel like idiots. Even if a show only demonstrates how
to build a basic chest of drawers, it does a lousy job of preparing the
average Joe or Joan for the task. In the end, the show provides nothing
more than boutique shopping and showing off. I suppose that would be a
lot of fun if you only want to learn that you—as a homeowner or stock
broker or bank clerk—know nothing about houses or furniture or nails and
that you’ll never stand a chance of doing more than hanging a picture on
On shows like these, the jobs are made to look so darned easy. All the
materials are waiting for assembly and nothing is spoiled, the wrong
type or missing. The air gun never misfires and the compressor never
needs to be drained (yes, you have to drain compressors daily because
they fill up with water and will rust out if you don’t do so). That’s
another thing I hate: in actuality, there are many small details that
fill a contractor’s day (or your day when you play contractor) but
they’re neatly edited out, just as they are in a cooking show. Just pop
the raw one in the oven and Voila, the new freshly baked one comes right
out of the other oven.
(See article at
Found--the gene that causes belief in genetic determinism
Doesn't matter much, we all know who is being referred to. And, to be
honest, Norm Abrams rolls off the tongue much more easily that Norm Abram.
Hell, considering how often people mispronounce his last name, he should
change it to make it easier on everyone else. :)
The only thing I don't like about those shows is that they make it seem like
it can be done in a day and everybody can be there working at the same
time....The looks I get from people when they get the news the drywall is
gonna take 2 or 3 weeks for their new house and nothing else is gonna be
happening inside while we are there.."You mean we can't install the cabinets
and trim the windows till your done "...I answer , NO you're gonna get your
crap outta here so we can walk around on stilts and not kill ourselves and
roll our staging around.....LOL.....
TOH and TNYW are good shows , very informative and I don't include them in
the other idiot shows...
on 8/23/2009 8:30 PM (ET) David Nebenzahl wrote the following:
It's just entertainment, and not a learning program. I suppose many of
the viewers don't have any thoughts of building anything they see on the
show, or even have the tools to build it. I put it in the same category
of shows like "How It's Made" and "American Chopper", where the viewer
is not looking for a way to make a Hockey helmet or a custom motorcycle.
American Chopper is less and less about motorcycles. It more and more about
the Tuetel family soap opera. And watch daddy get rich while he drives his
sons away. There has been a couple recent episodes where less than ten
minutes of the show had anything to do with building a bike.
Is the show even on any more? I have not seen any new episodes since
IMHO it has always been about the drama and I don't really think daddy drove
his sons away, more like pushed them out of the nest. It was mostly Sr.'s
fault for putting up with the nonsense for all those years.
I would have fired both of the sons long before now. Mikey is pretty much a
distraction, no more no less. Paul Jr., no work ethic.
That show has sucked for years now. It was cool in the beginning. Now
it is nothing but grand entrances, false dead-lines and stage-craft...
and family drama, because we are the voyeurs of human drama and family
feuds. We love to slow down at the scene of an accident. Sick.
Did anyone catch the quote from the TV Show "House" about Norm?
House's oncologist friend Wilson was staying with him between
marriages. He noted surprise that House had New Yankee Workshop
marked as a favorite on his on-screen menu.
He said "Gee House, I never figured you as the woodworking type."
House responded (paraphrase): "Oh yeah. A total moron in a building
full of ultra-sharp woodworking machinery. As a physician, the
suspense is unbearable!"
But I still like Norm.
Norm is a machinist that happens to work in wood rather than metal. For
a few shows, they made of point of explaining how some steps could be
done with normal tools versus the high-dollar specialty tools, but I
haven't seen that lately. But him and his buddy Tom are definitely
master carpenters, and if I was a (very) rich man, I'd happily hire them
both to build or rebuild a house for me. You can't fake that easy
familiarity with the tools, the materials, and the process. I grew up in
the business, and saw and worked with enough real carpenters and idiots,
to know the difference. Other than making me feel like an inadequate
klutz, watching the pros work was always an educational pleasure. Most
of them, unless they were on deadline, didn't mind me watching and
asking questions. I learned a lot from them.
I liked TOH much better in the early days, in spite of that idiot BV.
The projects had something to do with reality back then, and Norm was
still a working contractor. (Not sure if Tommy still is- I never see him
wearing the 'Silva Brothers' shirts any more.) They also had the owners
actually doing work back then, unlike most of the current 'This Old
Mansion' projects. The New Orleans arc a couple years ago had a little
of that old flavor, with some things actually going wrong. On the out of
town projects, they aren't involved as closely, and things still go
wrong that can't be edited out.
I think people bitching about the yuppification of TOH is why they
started the companion show, Ask TOH. Around here, that has basically
driven NYW off the schedule- I only trip across that a few times a year
any more, on the local PBS.
I think you are right. My father in law was a machinist for years and
then started doing wood. He and Norm have a lot in common in the way
While my father in law can turn out some really beautiful pieces often
there seems to be something missing. Maybe its that the lines are too
straight and the circles too machine perfectly round.
Has the term inspiration become obsolete? After reading the message I
think I know what direction I would not look for any. What does Cantor
expect? Watch a half hour program and the viewer will have the ability
to build anything?
These shows simply demonstrate what can be done if a person is willing
to apply themselves.
I don't mind giving Norm and all the others some of the credit for
inspiring me. I've watched many of those programs over the last three
or four decades and have learned a lot from them.
I started small years ago building furniture, a rec room and various
DIY projects, and ended up designing and building the house I live in
When I say build I mean I did the building. I hired a contractor to do
the foundation. I did most of the rest of the work with help from
friends and family.
I'm presently building kitchen cupboards, much the same as I saw Norm
building cupboards on his show. I'll post a few photos of the house
and some utility room cupboards I built for practice on
As for Mr Cantor, I'd give him the credit for having the ability to
discourage someone from ever starting because it will be too hard.
Out of curiosity, has Cantor ever built anything or is he just an
By the way, I worked all my adult live as a Technician and didn't know
the first thing about hanging a picture frame when I started. I
learned from my mistakes and kept at it. If Norm can do it so can I.
David Nebenzahl wrote
On 8/23/2009 1:25 PM David Nebenzahl spake thus:
[yes, it's Abram, not Abrams. Apparently they didn't name the tank after
Heh; got some junk mail from /Popular Woodworking/ today (don't think
I'll subscribe, as I got spoiled from reading /Fine Woodworking/). The
pitch features the cover from their August 2005 issue, with a photo of
Norm in his shop. The article title is "In the Shop with Norm Abram: We
Debunk 7 Myths About TV's Frugal Yankee".
Wonder what the myths are. Anyone have this issue lying around?
Found--the gene that causes belief in genetic determinism
I remember that issue, way back when and they were all softball
questions. You know,
"Does Norm own the shop" and "Does Norm really have a power tool fetish"
and "Does Norm
actually build all those projects himself", that kind of thing.
I will say, Popular Woodworking surprised me, I got it on a whim one
year and have kept renewing ever since. FWW, PWW and a multi-year
subscription to Wood that someone got me is all I read these days.
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