In the ever-changing climate of celebrity baby news, HGTV superstars Chip and Joanna Gaines have welcomed their fifth child, a son named Crew. Soccer moms and renovation junkies everywhere are thrilled for the happy couple, but to the average millennial, these names probably draw a blank. Why did the HGTV stars get so big?
HGTV, or Home & Garden Television, is a basic cable channel that over 82 percent of those with cable have access to. Its programming is based around DIYs and how-tos of home renovation and gardening.
It sounds humdrum, but it’s far from that — in 2016, HGTV beat CNN in its cable ratings and became the third most watched U.S. cable channel, behind Fox News and ESPN. The channel may sound boring — it may even be boring, depending on who you talk to — but those house-flipping and garden-growing shows have some serious cultural clout.
In 2013, the Gaines’ show, “Fixer Upper,” premiered. The premise is simple: Joanna & Chip give a Texas couple that needs a new home three options for a new house, all with different costs of renovation. The couple chooses one, and then Chip and Joanna get to work renovating and designing the couple their new dream house.
Dull as it may seem, the couple have been a massive ratings win for the network. The show’s finale, which aired in April, had over 4 million views, almost double HGTV’s second most popular show, “Flip or Flop.”
The popularity of “Fixer Upper” isn’t because the show’s premise is anything better than HGTV’s other offerings (in my humble opinion, it’s kind of worse) but because of the Gaines’ charisma.
Chip is the goofy, lovable dad with just the right amount of sex appeal to make the middle-aged woman want to tune in. Joanna is a long-haired, flared-jeans-wearing tastemaker/mother. Even more palpable than their non-partisan Texan likability is their seemingly genuine and honest love for each other; the show makes a point to frequently highlight their chemistry.
Of course, the couple have had their fair share of controversy. In 2016, BuzzFeed reported that the Gaines attended an extremely homophobic church and had never featured a same-sex couple on “Fixer Upper.”
Chip wrote a blog post in an attempt to diffuse the tension, which read: “Joanna and I have personal convictions. One of them is this: we care about you for the simple fact that you are a person, our neighbor on planet earth. It’s not about what color your skin is, how much money you have in the bank, your political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, nationality or faith.”
Although it’s not really a denial, the adoring public seemed satisfied, as the particular blog post in question is flooded with positive comments, some even coming in a year and a half after the fact.
Whether or not the Gaines couple are your cup of tea, it is undeniable that they have infiltrated the world of influence and are probably going to be media fixtures for some time now. Let’s just hope HGTV doesn’t give them an even more boring spin-off.