2016 held many disappointments and disasters, and for many of us, HGTV was a much needed safe space. The Home and Garden Network, with its classically attractive hosts fixing messed up houses, was my happy place. I spent many a lazy weekday evening curled up on my (knockoff) mid-century modern sofa, both lusting after and judging the homes of others. I loved when the picture-perfect hosts burst onto the scene to save some dowdy muggle by covering their entire house in shiplap. I dreamed I was like them, and at any moment a tiny blonde with $10,000 and a can-do spirit would jackhammer through my front door and offer me a free home makeover.
Well, if you, like me, have been living in some fantasyland where everything is peachy keen on the television network sponsored by shiplap, it's time to wake up and smell the asbestos. Because not everything is .
Case in point? The beautiful, lying hosts of "Flip or Flop," Christina and Tarek El Moussa.
As HGTV tells it, the cute couple first met in a real estate office in 2008 and then swiftly fell in love over their perfect abs and bloodlust for home flipping. They were married in 2009, and in 2011, Tarek's friend made an audition tape for HGTV in which he chronicled the process of flipping a home from start to finish. HGTV went crazy for it and on April 13, 2013, "Flip or Flop" debuted.
And let me tell you — the show is so good. Part of the success has to do with the addictive nature of watching disaster homes be rehabilitated — seeing a Garbage Pail Kid of a house finally get some curb appeal provides a greater thrill than most can imagine. But the other part of the show's success is that the El Moussas bring you into their family, and you get to spend time with them — they adorably bicker the way you wish your parents had, and their adorable children, Taylor Reese, 6, and Brayden James, 16 months, are too cute for words.
And that's not including some truly touching moments along the way, too. Christina charmingly filmed one of the show's later seasons while pregnant with baby Brayden. In 2013, a nurse watching the show at home spotted a bump on Tarek's throat and sent a letter. She warned that it might be cancer, and that he should have it checked out. He did, and it was cancer. Luckily, the lump was removed before the cancer was spread, and that very well could have saved his life. Of course, HGTV made a video about it, and , and of course, I clicked, watched and cried. This is the stuff that attaches you to people and their shows; it makes you care for them.
What I'm getting at, in a lengthy and maybe not all that entertaining way, is that I cared about Tarek and Christina and their life together, and it turns out that life has been a big sham since at least May, and I'm pissed at them, and the producers of "Flip or Flop," and everyone at HGTV for lying to all of us for so long.
The whole premise of the show is a happy and adorable couple who happily and adorably work together, and even though they have their ups and downs, they get by as a family of flippers. Now we're finding out their relationship has been a lie since before season 6 even aired, and I'm confused and hurt.
Here's what's been going on in real life: Christina and Tarek on Dec. 12, stating that they had faced "challenges" in their marriage, and in particular citing an "unfortunate misunderstanding about six months ago" as the big issue. More dramatically, as "a scary incident involving guns and a feared suicide attempt." The police were apparently called to the couple's home and saw Tarek running from the property with a gun (Christina also fled the house crying). After being found by police, Tarek explained he had gone out with his gun to "blow off some steam." We also learned that after the split, but while episodes showed him and Christina as a happily married couple, Tarek was reportedly while Christina was allegedly having a romance with on the show.
Yet here's what we've been seeing on HGTV: More of the same adorable bickering and house flipping! I'm sure if HGTV had their way, and the story never broke, that we'd be seeing them flip houses until they were both six feet under, and we'd never be the wiser. But the word is out, and we can't ever go back. And while the , I'd rather HGTV stop selling us this bill of goods about them being the perfect, if ever-so-slightly flawed, couple who loves each other more than just about anything (except for their children and a good house flip), and instead ended the charade now.
Because although I know reality TV isn't always real, I'd like there to be some semblance of truth involved, especially when the lie you're peddling is antithetical to the heart of the show. A big part of the charm of "Flip or Flop," and a major reason it's a hit, is because we, the audience, loved Tarek and Christina together, as a couple. We were rooting for them to make it, as both house flippers and life partners, and never doubted that they would. Because that's what the show taught us week after week. As it turns out, their marriage was messily dissolving while we watched them playfully joke about leaky faucets.
HGTV will reportedly film a few more episodes with the couple before ending the series when their contract ends. But they should just stop now. They also should have, leading up to Christmas, stopped airing adorable holiday-themed ads with them and their kids, as though their marriage was in a state opposite that of dissolution. The charade is up. The truth is out. And HGTV, where real estate never comes without a side of warm, fuzzy familial togetherness, needs to own it for the sake of the viewers who trust them. The longer the "Flip or Flop" lie goes on, the more reason audiences have to believe that it's hardly the only HGTV house built on a very rickety foundation of lies.