“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” designer Paul DiMeo is philosphical about the ending of the two-time Emmy-winning reality show this week. “I certainly think that moving to Friday night gave us an indication of what was coming,” he says of their cancellation after nine years. “Trying to have some type of TV savvy and realizing that all good things come to an end, I think we were pretty prepared.”
The show winds with a two-hour special finale episode tonight, with the team in tornado-devastated Joplin, Missouri, working with 21 builders to raise seven houses in seven days. “If it has to end, so be it, but I’m just grateful this is the way we’re going to go out,” DiMeo says. “I’m honored to be a small part of this show. There are people I’m going to keep in touch with the rest of my life.”
He won’t be watching tonight. He never watches the show. “Why would I? It’s an abridged version of what I lived through. It would just make me angry to know all the things that didn’t get on the air. We used to shoot 600 hours of video for 43 minutes of television.”
Looking back, he notes, “There are things about what we’ve done over the last nine years that are iconic: ‘Move that bus,’ hitting all 50 states, having the First Lady be part of our efforts.” His personal list of stand-out memories includes LeAnn Rimes singing “Amazing Grace” on the show, accompanying Kermit the Frog on guitar and piano, interacting with firefighters and the military — and innumerable off-camera moments. Such as: “There was a little boy, six or seven years old, they knew only had a couple more years to live, who wanted to help out. We’re not allowed to have kids on the [construction] set, but at that point I said, [bleep] that,’ and had him put up a little piece of trim. If you can do something like that, it’s a good day.”
Such days are not over for DiMeo and the rest of the team led by Ty Pennington. They’ll be shooting an episode next week in Knoxville, TN, in fact, for airing late in the year. There may be more specials. And DiMeo points out that even though the cameras may be off, volunteerism continues. “Joplin is rebuilding. Whether or not we were there, the people would be stepping up. Habitat for Humanity came in and built 17 homes right after we left,” he points out. And he expects to be involved some kind of way.