Real estate is a hot button topic in Vancouver. Not the button from the Staples commercial that crows “That was easy!”, but the missile launcher button in the underground bunker guarded by cabin-feverish soldiers who haven’t seen the sun since the start of the Cold War; you can’t get near it without someone sounding an alarm.
Maybe that’s why the newest addition to OMNI TV’s reality show roster, House My Style, is so refreshing. Starring local real estate agents Ling Qiu and Paul Wong, the show is a lighthearted trip through some of the less-than-glamourous aspects of working in Vancouver’s property market. Nobody gets blown up. At least, not yet.
The show’s premise is simple enough: take two polished, well-dressed sales people and put them in situations where they might scuff their Jimmy Choos. The pilot episode follows the pair to the Riviera Hotel on Robson street, where they learn all about the ins and outs of commercial property ownership, including cleaning strangers’ toilets. Co-producer Kevin Li, of Little Ram Productions, described the show as “Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs, but with real estate agents.” Luckily for Ling and Paul, they’re unlikely to ever be asked to collect bat guano or test a shark suit. Their entertainment value lies more in the way they riff off each other, whether it’s Paul laughing when Ling admits to wearing gloves to clean her own house, or Ling reminding Paul that his tie has vacationed in a hotel toilet bowl. All reality shows involve some degree of scripting, but this level of chemistry can’t be faked.
Besides the obvious fun of watching Ling squirm as she tucks in bedsheets full of “other people’s dead skin”, there are two important elements that set House My Style apart from other reality shows.
The first of these is language. House My Style is fully bilingual, with Ling speaking mainly Mandarin and Paul mainly English. Don’t understand Mandarin? No problem. There are subtitles in both languages at all times to help viewers on both sides of the language barrier keep up. Watch the show regularly and you may even start to pick up a few key phrases to throw around at parties. Ling pokes fun at Paul’s limited Mandarin fairly regularly, so the first sentence you learn might be something like: “Your Mandarin is so ridiculous!”
More importantly, this bilingualism signals the gradual breakdown of ethnic isolation. Chinese Canadians make up 18.2% of Vancouver’s total population, and there are those who worry that Asian ethnic groups “isolate themselves” rather than integrating into Vancouver’s culture. Since language is one of the biggest barriers for new immigrants, and real estate dominates our discussions of this city’s future, a show that makes both English and general knowledge of the market accessible is a huge step toward bridging the gaps between the English and non-English-speaking communities. It’s no accident, either. When Kevin teamed up with co-producer Alden E. Habacon to create House My Style, they drew the name of their company from the Samoan expression, “la teu le va,” which means to nurture the relationships between people. 2Leva Productions was born, and so was a show that third-generation Chinese Canadians raised on MTV and Power Rangers could watch with their grandmothers. Finally.
The values behind the 2Leva namesake are also responsible for the second key element that separates House My Style from the rest of the reality show pack: the tone. While fans of the genre will find its standard reality show format familiar, the resemblance ends there. Most reality TV shows pit their stars against each other and exploit private tragedy, drawing viewers in by throwing gasoline on the fire. House My Style, on the other hand, is more of a summer bonfire: fun, friendly and full of neighbourly love.
So when you’re curled up on the couch this Sunday night looking for a good way to wrap up your weekend, check out House My Style. It’s the best way to indulge reality TV show addictions without any of the guilt.
House My Style airs at 11PM on Sundays, on OMNI TV.
Some episodes available online.