Monday, October 15, 2007

How about some cheese with that whine?

The following article appeared in the online edition of today's Arizona Republic:
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Local reality show exposes housing woes of the rich
Financial struggles know no boundaries, producers say
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Jimmy Magahern
Special for The Republic.
Oct. 14, 2007 07:18 PM
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A Phoenix couple are hoping to turn real-estate woes into reality-TV gold.
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Tentatively titled Real Estate Rescue, the show promises to focus on a class of overlooked victims of the current foreclosure boom: well-off folks with real estate they can no longer afford.
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The pilot's plot?
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An affluent man in his early 50s agrees to take the retirement offer from his company and moves with his wife to an elegant house in northeast Scottsdale. With golden-parachute pay and a healthy nest egg, they buy into a school for children with learning disabilities and eventually take over from the other partners.
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A few years later, they decide to build a new house closer to their daughter in Anthem, signing a contract in March 2006. The house is scheduled to be completed in December, but they are caught in the nasty real estate slowdown.
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The couple is forced to slash the asking price of their first home in Scottsdale five times — to a paltry $759,000.
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Now, the man's post-retirement job as a pharmacist at a neighborhood Safeway — a career he left long before joining the corporate world — pays that second mortgage rather than for extras at the school or for the couple. In broad strokes, this is the real-life story of one Scottsdale couple, Sandi and Terry Mahan, whose decidedly upscale travails currently are being filmed for Real Estate Rescue's pilot episode.
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Kim and John Landry, the co-creators of the show, admit their subjects are not hard-luck stories.
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Still, the Landrys, who also live in Anthem, believe American couch potatoes have heard enough stories from “the truly down-and-out,” as Kim calls them.
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When it comes to feeling the pain from today's softened real-estate market, even folks in the best ZIP codes get stung.“A lot of real-estate reality shows profile the people who are really destitute,” said Kim, a mother of two and a one-time struggling actress.
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She has been calling all her contacts within the entertainment industry to drum up interest in the new show. It is yet to be picked up by a cable network.
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“You know, the people displaced by Katrina or those living in poverty, of course, the public's hearts always go out to them,” she said.“But there are people in the middle- and upper classes who have been affected by this situation, too,” she added, “and it's not like they're all just having to sell their yachts!”
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The Landrys were drawn to the story of the Mahans because of the couple's involvement with the Totem Learning Center, which they own and where Sandi works as an adminstrator and language therapist for children with learning disabilities. “When I saw her working with those kids, I just knew, ‘This is the pilot!'.” Kim said. “Both of their hearts and souls are so into that school. It's clearly become their calling.”
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The Mahans themselves recognize that not everyone will feel sympathetic to their plight.“People like to see the lofty come down,” said Terry, who retired from a high-paying career with Eli Lilly. “Even in the Bible, there's the story of Job,” he said. “Someone who had so much and then lost it all, in essence, to remain true to his passion, his commitment.”
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The Landrys say they think viewers will warm up to their subjects for courageously airing their financial woes in public, something many in their social stratum consider the greatest taboo.
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“There are actually a lot of people at the Mahans' economic level who are facing those same foreclosure fears now, but they cover it up,” said John Landry, a retired architect who now works as a real-estate agent, “so nobody ever knows.”
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Terry said he believes that if the rich can't come up with their own solutions to the real-estate mess — something the Landrys' show intends to examine — things will only get worse for people who have even fewer resources to bail themselves out of the market's downward spiral.
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“It's kind of like the collapse of Wall Street back in the Great Depression,” he said. “There were very wealthy people jumping out of buildings and leaving others to clean up the mess.
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“We're saying those who have the capacity to get out of this need to lead the way,” Terry added. “I mean, if we can't do it, who's going to bear our burden?”
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I love real estate shows: flipping shows..."help me find a new home" shows..."tell me what my house is worth" shows... "stage my home for sale" shows... I watch them all. But now, someone is trying to pitch a "save my McMansion from foreclosure" show.
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I think the line has been drawn. For one thing, it's very difficult to feel sorry for these people. Although the shows producer seems to disagree. She thinks that the TV watching public has "heard enough stories from 'the truly down-and-out'.”
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Be that as it may, I think I'd rather hear about the mom who struggles to keep the bills paid, the kids fed, and the household running while her husband fights for his life in the ICU. Particularly because that could have been my story. But luckily, Q had excellent disability benefits that provided our family with full pay for the six months he was unable to work.
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No. I don't care to hear about the over-extended, over-privileged retiree who has to take a job (gasp!) to keep his plush life afloat. I should point out that this Mahan guy is luckier than most. He was able to find work as a pharmacist. Decent money there. Most people have to supplement their income by bagging groceries or cleaning bird cages at PetsMart.
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Life is full of choices. The Mahans chose to buy a second home before the first was sold. Nobody held a gun to their heads. They got themselves into this mess. Now, they must accept the consequences...just like anyone else. Nope, I don't feel sorry for them one iota.
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One more thing: $759K is NOT "paltry". Not even for a Scottsdale address.

5 comments:

Menchie said...

There aren't any real estate reality shows over here. But I love watching home makeovers especially those who can't afford it.

Love the southpark figures on your blog! :D

Mark G. said...

The Mahans chose to buy a second home before the first was sold. Nobody held a gun to their heads.

Amen. I don't feel for them at all and won't watch a show that makes them out to be victims.

Ms. Val said...

Menchie--
I agree. I too enjoy seeing people who've overcome illness and hardship be "surprised" with new furniture...or even a whole new home! Extreme Makeover: Home Edition makes me cry at times...especially when the subjects include a sick child.

And your South Park people are better than mine! How did you get yours arranged like a family? I can only make them individually.

Mark--
Actually, I might watch if the end of show features a shot of some sort of big "foreclosure" sign out in the front yard.

Yes, I can be a bitch at times. :-)

Christopher said...

Well, as you are aware, Kyle's mom's a bitch.

Ms. Val said...

Yep, that's my theme song!

Preach on, Brother Christopher!