Making clear where HGTV shows are filmed

Some HGTV shows are very clear about where they are located. As two examples, Chip and Joanna Gaines are based in Waco and have built a local empire through Fixer Upper while House Hunters shows multiple shots of the local community and region.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

But, other shows say less about their filming location. One such show is Love It or List It. While this is old news to regular viewers, this article discusses the switch in filming locations:

Like Renovation Island, Love It or List It actually began as a Canadian series, and filming took place in Ontario. Despite where it was shot, the home renovation series became a popular franchise on HGTV in the United States. As such, in 2014, after filming in Ontario for six years, hosts Hilary Farr and David Visentin, along with the crew, picked up and headed to North Carolina to start fresh in a new city…

And, if in doing so you find that you love the area as much as the homes being showcased, know that you can experience it for yourself by booking a trip to the Tar Heel state — specifically the Triangle and greater Raleigh-Durham area.

One could argue this does not matter: the real show involves Hilary, David, and the interior of individual properties. The show tends to provide a few aerial views of the properties in question and there might be some discussion of the location of the home in relation to workplaces or destinations. Does it matter if the homes are in Ontario or in North Carolina? Most of the action and filming takes place inside.

On the other hand, the community context matters a lot. Even if the show focuses on individual properties, the place matters for at least a few reasons:

  1. House architecture and style depends on what happens in particular places. The design of homes in North Carolina is quite different from Ontario. Different builders and developers operate in each place.
  2. Different logics apply in different places regarding where people want to locate. Do people in older Toronto and suburban neighborhoods see locations in the same way as Americans in sprawling contexts? Maybe, maybe not.
  3. What looks like normal life differs by place. In years of showing the same kinds of places on a TV show, do viewers accept it as how life works? Any TV show can project stability with consistent characters and story lines. But, see enough single-family homes in tree-lined neighborhoods only accessible by cars – and this is the primary dwelling on HGTV – and it can appear to be the default.

While not all HGTV shows ignore the community or region, I would be interested in more of their shows seriously incorporating place into their narratives about homes.

The difficulty in finding records of sundown laws

A sociologist discusses the difficulty in finding written records of sundown laws in Canadian communities:

He also looked at how the memory of slavery is being impacted, citing the difficulty in finding the existence of so-called “sundown” laws that required Blacks to be off the streets at night in many Ontario communities as recently as the 1960s.

There’s references to sundown laws existing, but Kitossa said, “what I find surprising is that the historians, themselves, are actually not providing the empirical evidence to say that we have this bylaw issue here or repealed on this date.”

While he can’t find any evidence of these laws on the books, he’s heard many anecdotal accounts from people about them.

“Whether the laws existed or not, people have these stories and so they believed it to be true,” he said. “So, belief constitutes its own reality.”

From a sociological point of view, Kitossa said this situation tells him “there’s a way that people talk about what to remember and what not to remember, and what to record and what not to record.”

It makes him think of the Japanese internment during the Second World War where the adults that were interned basically stopped talking about their experience.

On one hand, this could be cited as evidence that sundown laws were not as pervasive as important because they were never formalized. On the other hand, Kitossa echoes a famous sociological quote from W. I. Thomas: “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” Sundown laws don’t need to be officially proposed, debated, and written down in order to be put into action and enforced.

Indeed, this is what James Loewen found in his study Sundown Townswhich argues a majority of communities in the northern United States had such rules. Few communities had signs at the edge of town that displayed such rules and few had formal ordinances. Yet, community memories were strong about the presence of such rules as whites tried to limit the presence of blacks and other minorities.

One might even make the argument that these informal rules are more powerful than formal rules as they didn’t even need to be codified to be in effect.

A battle over replacing a bridge

The Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario has drawn attention as public officials discuss building a new bridge instead of undertaking costly repairs. The twist: the existing bridge is privately owned. Both the private owner and public officials are discussing where they might build a new bridge – the private owner wanting one under his control, the public officials wanting one under their control.