show produced by Boston's WGBH
where they take you on a week-by-week tour of a home renovation
usually with an emphasis on historic preservation
yet with an eye for retrofitting
homes with modern conveniences
Originally created by Russell Morash and Bob Vila, the show was hosted by Vila, who was forced out in 1989 after PBS didn't like his endorsement deals. (Ironically, the changing nature of PBS now means that This Old House begins with sponsorship announcments by 5 different companies.) From 1989 to 2003 the show was hosted by Steve Thomas, with singnificant input from master carpenter Norm Abram, general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and HVAC specialist Richard Threthewey, and landscape contractor Roger Cook. Steve Thomas told the producers he would be leaving after the 2003-2004 season, and was replaced by Kevin O'Connor, a TV novice discovered when he was chosen for a spot on the new show "Ask This Old House".
This Old House was unique when it debuted in that they actually put real contractors on camera and had them talk unscripted about what they were doing, so it had a very real, gritty feel to it. As they got better at it, the show spawned countless knockoffs (one could say that HGTV itself is merely one big This Old House knockoff, as well as shows such as Hometime on PBS). The current format of the show centers around the 4 principal craftspeople above, and frequent discussions with people from electricians to painters to interior designers.
The current format of the show usually includes 2 projects in a season--the first somewhere in the Boston metropolitan area, the second in a warmer climate both to showcase a different area of the country and also because that part of the season is filmed in the wintertime. However, for the 2001-2002 season they spent the entire season on a single house in Manchester-By-The-Sea, Massachusetts, and in the 2002-2003 season are doing a kitchen-only remodel in suburban Chicago, Illinois.
The show has mostly been about upscale renovations, but there was more of a focus earlier on about budgets and finances. There are also frequent field trips to manufacturers, museums and other homes in the area they're working on that are educational and edifying.
This Old House is a full-blown business. First-run epsisode only air on PBS; but reruns are on HGTV and in syndication. For the 2002-2003 season there is an additional half-hour show called "Ask This Old House" with the five principal personalities answering questions, doing visits to homes and helping with simple home improvement tasks, and the "What is it?" feature where the craftsmen try to stump each other with unique tools and implements. In 2003 "Inside This Old House" premiered on A&E interspersing home improvement tips with clips from the Bob Vila-era episodes.
There is a monthly This Old House magazine with not only information from the show but other articles and plenty of ads. The website is of course www.thisoldhouse.com. You can purchase This Old House books, videos and apparel.