Characters on GCB have taste because they don’t live in McMansions

I was amused to run across this description of the homes for the new ABC series GCB. While the women may be gossipers, at least they have good taste and don’t live in McMansions:

The production team spent four days scouting historic and modern houses in Texas, soaking up local color in the tony Dallas enclaves of Highland Park, Preston Hollow and University Park. “We visited homes, churches, country clubs, offices, stores, etc., and immersed ourselves in everything Dallas,” says Dugally, an Emmy nominee in 2004 for Arrested Development. The pilot was shot on location, though Los Angeles doubles for Dallas in the series. “It was not an easy task as Dallas is known for its large expanses of property, many without high fences or security and lots of brick architecture,” she adds. “Los Angeles is full of palm trees that don’t do well in Dallas. We were able to find several wonderful houses and a great church in the L.A. basin that serve as the exteriors for our show.”

Although Dallas certainly earns its bigger-is-better notoriety — Aspen’s housewife character has a French Country-style kitchen with a countertop deep fryer and three double ovens — Dugally notes that the houses they saw there weren’t McMansions. “Dallas is the most cosmopolitan city in Texas. Most of the money is old money,” says the designer. “I said, ‘Let’s give our characters taste.’ We made a very conscious decision that the look be over-the-top but still elegant.”

For the home of Amanda’s colorful mother Gigi (Potts), production designer Dugally wanted the interiors “to remain very upscale but traditional.” Front and center is the ornate, winding staircase with a landing topped by a gold leafed dome. Asian accents, custom-designed wallpapers by Astek in Los Angeles and white wainscoting are just a few of the design elements used for the warm gold- and cream-toned decor.

Gun-toting Gigi gets her own rifle-display room. “It’s completely taken from memory from a house I saw in Dallas,” says Dugally. Among the animal trophies is a mounted javelina. In high school, Bibb’s Amanda character had branded ugly-duckling Carlene as one of the creatures, a relative of the pig that’s native to the Southwest. Says Dugally, “Our executive producer Robert Harling wanted a javelina wherever we could get one, and he was so thrilled we found it. It’s so ugly.”

Read on for descriptions of some of the other houses.

Perhaps the characters on the show have some reason to have more taste – perhaps they are educated and/or have money. The inspiration for the fictional Hillside Park is supposedly Highland Park, a well-known Dallas suburb that is quite monied (a median household income of about $150k). If you have enough money, you don’t need a “traditional McMansion” to impress people because you don’t want to look like the nouveau riche and would prefer to show your wealth through refined and expensive accoutrements.

But the decision to have them avoid McMansions is still intriguing, particularly if they wanted the houses to be over-the-top. Even diva or “sassy” characters on TV can’t have McMansions because this would reflect badly on them.

Austerity in the suburbs: turning off and ripping out the lights in Highland Park, Michigan

As many suburbs face budget shortfalls, some have instituted new measures. While California communities drew attention last year for contracting out services previously provided by the city, the Detroit suburb of Highland Park is trying another option: turning off and ripping out the street lights.

But when the debt-ridden community could no longer afford its monthly electric bill, elected officials not only turned off 1,000 streetlights. They had them ripped out — bulbs, poles and all. Now nightfall cloaks most neighborhoods in inky darkness…

Highland Park’s decision is one of the nation’s most extreme austerity measures, even among the scores of communities that can no longer afford to provide basic services.

Other towns have postponed roadwork, cut back on trash collection and closed libraries, for example. But to people left in the dark night after night, removing streetlights seems more drastic. And unlike many other cutbacks that can easily be reversed, this one appears to be permanent…

The city’s monthly electric bill has been cut by 80 percent. The amount owed DTE Energy goes back about a decade, but utility executives hesitated to turn off the juice…

Most of the 500 streetlights still shining in Highland Park are along major streets and on corners in residential areas. DTE Energy has listed the city’s overdue bill as an uncollectable expense.

It would be interesting to hear what else the community has had to do or has considered in order to lessen the $58 million budget deficit.

While it is certainly a shock to have street lights torn out, I wonder how much of an effect this will actually have. It sounds like lights have been retained at certain places for traffic safety. I vaguely recall reading a piece at The Infrastructurist that suggested street lights on residential streets are there more for nervous residents than actually for reducing crime or improving traffic safety.

The description of Highland Park, losing more than half of its population between 1980 and 2010 plus a 42% poverty rate, suggests that this is an inner-ring suburb. While Detroit is notorious for struggling, many inner-ring suburbs are facing similar issues: once prosperous, the issues facing big cities have moved beyond their boundaries. These suburbs often have limited tax revenues and increasingly poor residents. How can they compete with the big city (if it happens to be at least somewhat thriving) or suburbs further out that have more modern amenities and wealthier populations? This is why people like Myron Orfield suggest that we need more metropolitan revenue sharing in order to help these communities survive and have hope for turning their fortunes around.

Of the suburbs that have had to turn to more drastic measures to close budget shortfalls, how many of them are inner-ring suburbs? Do these places share other characteristics? I would assume many wealthier suburban communities haven’t had to consider such options yet.