National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

Catholic Cribs

BY Anthony Flott

October 25-31, 2009 Issue | Posted 10/16/09 at 5:09 PM

 

It’s not that Father Robert Reed, a Boston Archdiocese priest, is a MTV groupie. After all, as a television network director and TV show host himself, he already has a favorite station — Boston-based, nationally broadcast CatholicTV.

But when Father Reed began looking for a way to promote Catholicism in the home, he turned to the network that has given us rock and roll and — all too often — raunch.

The result is much safer family fare — “House+Home,” a reality TV show that takes viewers into the domiciles of Catholic families to see how the faith is lived.

“Part of this was inspired by ‘MTV Cribs,’ the fast-paced walk through a celebrity’s house,” said Father Reed.

The inspiration?

“We could do a kind of fast-paced walk throughout a Catholic family home,” he said. “Our focus at CatholicTV is definitely on the Church in the diocese, the parish and the family, and we wanted to do something in our programming lineup that really did give a lot of credit to parents and children together as families — and the challenge that it really is to make a house into a home.”

The show’s pilot debuted in June on CatholicTV and online at CatholicTV.com. The full series of 13 half-hour shows began airing in September on the station founded more than 50 years ago.


Reality TV Trend

“House+Home” actually is rather late to the reality TV craze that began in the mid-1990s with MTV’s “Real World.” Mark Allen, a producer on more than two dozen reality shows, says their popularity is only growing.

Part of the reason — no surprise — is financial.

“Compared to scripted shows, they are cheap to produce,” said Allen. “The main reason is there are no real talent or writer fees. A show doesn’t have to be No. 1 in its time slot to get renewed. It’s still making adequate money for the network, studio and production company because of its lower overhead costs.”

But there’s also a voyeuristic appeal.

“We love to see other people’s real lives play out, and we can live vicariously through them,” said Allen. “And like it or not, people love to see other people’s pain … and triumphs. They love to see other people struggle to feel better about their own lives. And there’s always the question ‘What would I do in that situation?’ or ‘How would I feel if that happened to me?’ Good reality shows have strong relatability.”

Father Reed agreed.

“People are fascinated with other people’s private lives and seeing them exposed,” he said.

That’s why CatholicTV promotes “House+Home” more as a “quasi reality” show.

“It’s not really a reality series in the sense that people have become familiar with on network TV, putting cameras all over their house and intruding on their personal lives,” said Father Reed. “But we do spend a couple of days with them, and the focus really is, essentially, to see how this particular family in whatever configuration we might find them turns the house into a home and passes the faith along in the home.”


In the House

The amiable Father Reed hosts each episode as a sort of tour guide, prompting families with questions. In the pilot, Father Reed interacted with the family of Michael and Laura Richard. The series debut recounted how their oldest daughter, Alexis, prayed that God would send her siblings soon.

“God told me I’m going to have brothers and sisters,” she told her mother. “God told me in my ear.”

Not longer after that, Laura discovered she was pregnant with triplets.

“There are two boys and one girl,” said Alexis. She was correct.

Michael, meanwhile, discusses financial challenges, saying, “Whenever we seem to be in a pinch, just relying on our faith, things happen to come through in the nick of time, and it happens more often than not.”

Showing Catholicism from a practical perspective and how it can help with real-world issues is key to the show. One family, for instance, tells how the parish community helped after the mother was in a car accident.

The show is entertaining, too. “We approach it as kind of a fun visit to the family,” said Father Reed. Like when the crew attached a “CharlieCam” to one of the family pets, “Charlie the Wonder Dog,” as he ran through the house.

In an episode with the John and Diane Rinkacs family, he teases oldest son Jacob for being lazy after sleeping until 9 a.m. He also notes that Diane works for the Church, then says, “And you’re still smiling!”


The Why of It All

Finding willing participants has been a challenge.

“Some people are just not open to it, and that’s perfectly fine,” said Father Reed. “They’d rather not parade their lives and their living situation in front of the television audience.”

In fact, he said, the station’s Facebook page, which links to high-definition video of the pilot and episode teasers, generated Web chatter focusing on intrusion into a family.

Michael Richard, a self-employed vehicle graphics designer, and Laura, a photographer, were hesitant to sign on to the project and have cameras invade their home. But they agreed to the pilot “to inspire people and give them a glimpse into … how other families could live out their faith,” especially fellow home-school families.

Father Reed said that’s important.

“People sometimes need to be reminded that the Church in its most basic level is found within the family,” said Father Reed. “It is in that place where the faith is truly lived on a day-to-day basis. Where the faith is passed on from grandparents to parents to children, and where parents are the first teachers of the faith, do the real work of parenting as Catholic parents in passing on the faith in their actions and words and the way that they foster a certain life of prayer within the home and participation in the local parish. All of that we try to bring out in the course of the taping.”

Anthony Flott writes from

Papillion, Nebraska.

MORE INFO

“House+Home” airs Mondays and Wednesdays at 4 a.m. and 8 p.m., Thursdays at 12:30 p.m. and Sundays at 7 a.m. on CatholicTV. For local cable listing information, go to CatholicTV.com/schedule/where-to-watch.aspx.