My Five Favorite TV Shows

I used to watch a lot of television. I’d have it on all the time, rarely watching a full show but just flipping from one channel to another worried I might be missing something. Then we pulled the plug on cable TV. I gave up that habit cold turkey. 


Mostly I didn’t miss it. The experience was freeing, like suddenly I found more hours in my day. But there were a handful of shows that I truly missed because for me they are motivating and often inspirational. These are the five shows I watch regularly, now that we’ve settled into our new home.

1. Fixer Upper. This HGTV reality show stars husband and wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines. He’s a contractor, she’s a designer and they live in Waco, Tex. On the show, the Gaineses start by showing homes to potential buyers in central Texas. Every home needs repairs or renovations. Once the buyers choose their home, Joanna designs it while Chip is the lead contractor. The buyers typically have a total budget of under $200,000 with at least $30,000 in renovations.

Why it’s a favorite. Unlike most reality shows that are mostly fake, Fixer Upper comes across as authentic and realistic—not heavily scripted where every scene is perfectly lighted, staged and produced. I love Chip and Joanna because they are so real and so much fun. Every episode of Fixer Upper motivates me in some way and makes me believe in myself. Joanna’s design and decorating tips and tricks are so usable, I can’t wait to steal them for my own home. And I won’t deny that at the end of every show, I secretly want to invite Chip and Joanna over for dinner so we can become friends.

2. The Profit. Marcus Lemonis, owner of the multi-billion dollar company, Camping World (we’ve dropped a few bucks there over the years, have you?) doesn’t go camping in his spare time—he goes on the hunt for struggling businesses that are desperate for cash and ripe for a deal. So far, he’s turned around more than 100 businesses by handing over his cash for a piece of the pie. And now CNBC has created a show around his ability to do this. He’s an amazing entrepreneur with the charisma, wisdom and smarts it takes to be successful. In each episode of The Profit, Lemonis tackles yet another struggling business—sparing no feelings.

Why it’s a favorite. I’m an entrepreneur—I just love business. And I’ve made my share of bonehead business mistakes over the years. That makes me identify and empathize with the business owners who are on their financial backs. When Lemonis goes in to save the day, he doesn’t tread softly. He tears everything apart to reveal why the business is struggling and what needs to be done, then offers his own cash to buy part of the business with the understanding that he’s now the boss. Everyone gets to work doing whatever it takes to turn things around. I get some kind of business lesson in every episode and always leave with something I can put into practice. Besides that, it’s just plain entertaining!

3. Chopped. This reality based cooking show pits four chefs against each other as they compete for a chance to win $10,000. In each episode the chefs must turn a basket of mystery ingredients into a dish that is then judged according to creativity, presentation and taste. Celebrity judges determine which chef must be “chopped” until only the winner remains.

Why it’s a favorite: I am nothing if not a big Food Channel fan, but Chopped is the only show I never miss. I’m hooked and not because I’m in love with the host or the judges. Each week it challenges me to play “Chopped” in my own kitchen. Most of the time my refrigerator and pantry contain their own kind of mystery ingredients. Instead of finding a recipe that requires me to run to the supermarket (which by the way is not as close as it was  when we lived in the big city), I picture host Ted Allen asking me to open my basket, followed by 30 minutes to turn its contents into a fabulous meal. Using so many ideas and tricks I’ve learned watching Chopped, I really do come out a winner most of the time. I am, however, still waiting for that $10,000 check.

4. Million Dollar Listing New York. This Bravo reality series follows three real estate agents as they represent buyers and sellers throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The cast of brokers are as eccentric as their clients while viewers get a chance to see inside some of the most palatial, exotic and extreme homes in the Big Apple.

Why it’s a favorite: You may or may not know that for 18 years I was an industrial commercial real estate broker in Los Angeles. That gives me a slight connection to the subject of this show. Million Dollar Listing New York deals in residential real estate, which is another world altogether. But I understand the business behind the drama. And there is a lot of drama! I call this a fake reality show because it is clearly scripted, planned, produced, staged and polished. Still, it’s fun—a guilty pleasure that makes me believe that I could do what those agents do.

5. This Old House. Begun in 1979 as a one-time, 13-part series on PBS, This Old House has grown into one of the most popular home improvement programs on television. The premise of the show is that the team of TOH hosts and contractors restore homes back to their once splendor and glory. Sometimes it takes an entire season to get the home done and in the process, viewers get an invaluable education in home restoration and improvement. This Old House has initiated lots of spin-off shows notably, New Yankee Workshop,

Why it’s a favorite: This Old House has been part of my life for its entire history. And when Norm Abrams showed up in The New Yankee Workshop, my husband Harold got hooked. It was just so much fun to watch how Norm could turn plain lumber into wonderful furniture. Harold watched religiously for about five years, then one day he stood up and casually said, “I think I could do that.” He went out and bought a bunch of woodworking equipment and sure enough, he did that. Oh my, did he ever! He began remodeling our home just as if he’d turned into Bob Vila. He built stunning furniture, too. In fact, I’m making a list of the projects and furniture I need for him to get working on . I’m one lucky girl, that’s for sure!

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24 replies
  1. Norma Jean
    Norma Jean says:

    I, too, love Fixer Upper and totally agree with you! We tried dumping satellite and did quite well with it for several years, but then we started losing all of our tv signal with our rooftop antenna. Don’t know why, just couldn’t even watch the news. All we got was a blue screen. We plan to one day buy a new, digital antenna and see if we can again pick up our local stations. Until then, we will enjoy our HGTV shows, as well as the reruns of The Waltons we watch five nights a week on Inspiration!

  2. Judy Harding
    Judy Harding says:

    I have to say I could save money by downgrading my direct tv options but love the shows on HGTV,DIY, and Cooking TOH brings memories of my dad who was a topnotch carpenter; a club program used imaginary ingredients (we picked some silly ones)for one of our best how to work together programs. Thanks for sharing

  3. Barb
    Barb says:

    My husband (an architect) is a devoted TOH fan.. been watching throughout our 33 year marriage… and we love Fixer Upper (and want to be friends with the Gaines too!).. but Chopped.. that is my show. Love love love it and like you it has inspired me to play along in my own kitchen. I haven’t seen the other 2 shows. We don’t actually have cable. We watch via the Internet and our Roku (Netflix and SlingTV).

  4. Shay Staves
    Shay Staves says:

    I love Fixer Upper, for all the same reasons you do, Mary! Chip and Joanna Gaines are talented, authentic, energetic, and fun, and I really feel like I’ve learned something after each episode. Wish all tv shows were as well-made as theirs.

  5. Linda
    Linda says:

    Our favorite home fix up show is on cable, on DIY network, or sometimes HGTV. The host is Mike Holems. People who have had bad contractor jobs, been scammed, or other issues, write to him for help. The show is very informative, we always learn something. It is our favorite show. We have watched the original show, 30 minutes, called Holmes on Holmes, then it became an hour, and is now Holms Makes It Right. It is a show worth watching. Comes out of Canada. You also get realistic price ideas for some of the projects, and they use lots of new products not just cheap stuff.

  6. Luethyl Price
    Luethyl Price says:

    Chips and Joanna are the greatest. Not only in their business but in their lives. They are dedicated Christians, and they are not ashamed to share their love for God around the world.

  7. crabbyoldlady
    crabbyoldlady says:

    Interesting how these were all reality shows, which I avoid like the plague. In our house it’s National Geographic, History Channel, BBC or the news.

  8. Eileen
    Eileen says:

    I want to tell you about my favorite show. America’s Test Kitchen /Cooks Country on PBS doesn’t just demonstrate a recipe. They explain the process and the chemical reactions that happen in the kitchen. Christopher Kimball and his team test ingredients and equipment and explains why the winner was chosen.

  9. Anora
    Anora says:

    YES! I don’t normally comment on blogs, but I was disappointed that you didn’t offer one of your awesome tips on HOW you enjoy those shows without cable! I sadly gave up HGTV, Food Network, BRAVO, AND CNBC–my MOST WATCHED networks–when I downgraded from cable to save money. (My cable company billed DOUBLED after my contracted “offer” ran out! I live in an area that limits me to ONLY this cable provider.) Any tips you offer will be greatly appreciated!:)

    • Barb
      Barb says:

      If you can afford $20 a month, you can subscribe to SlingTV which is internet based. We watch through our ROKU. It has HGTV, FOOD, Disney, TBS, TNT, Lifetime, ABC family, Cartoon Network, Cooking Channel, Travel, DIY, AMC and a few others. We have enjoyed having it in place of Cable. Oh it has ESPN and History Channel too. Forgot those!

  10. Toast Points
    Toast Points says:

    Without cable, those shows aren’t available to me. Even with cable/satellite, those shows aren’t available to me. What is the point of this particular column?

  11. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    I’m from Waco and have known Chip & Joanna casually for years. They’re the real deal, for sure! Loving to one another and their children and compassionate to those in need. (which doesn’t have anything to do with the show.) All that to say, there’s still more to them thany you see on t.v.

    • Nancy
      Nancy says:

      If you don’t have cable TV but you have a computer simply click on the links in the email to go to the web site of each of the TV shows. Sometimes if I miss a show I go online and watch the missed episode on the shows website.


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