Extreme Makeover: Home Edition executive producers George Verschoor and Brady Connell have built a home in one week — a feat most would mark as impressive — but for the ABC show’s 200th episode, one home just wasn’t enough.
Instead, Verschoor and Connell decided to build an entire neighborhood in Joplin, Mo., the site of the May 22 tornado that devastated the city and destroyed over 8,000 homes. After consulting with their director of construction, the executive producers set out to build 7 houses in 7 days, much more than their standard one per week — and it wasn’t because “bigger is better” for the anniversary of the show.
“Seeing the news [on May 23] we all looked at each other — we’re sort of in this business of rebuilding lives and building homes for people. And we had to do something. And it wasn’t because it was our 200th episode, and it wasn’t because it was our ninth season - the obligation, almost, to max out whatever our production could possibly handle,” said Connell.
Besides the amount of construction involved, Verschoor and Connell also had to work out the logistics of producing the two-hour episode at the same time. In order to do so, they combined their respective 70-plus person production teams and were joined by over 10,000 volunteers at their location in the small city.
“It’s taken a massive amount of production coordination and logistical coordination. It’s like taking two armies and working together,” Verschoor said.
For a show entering its ninth season — at which point shows can show signs of losing steam — the project is a means to refresh its aging formula. But Verschoor and Connell insist that it’s not their goal to find the best story or “top” themselves.
“Our goal is to find stories and respond to those stories in an organic way that makes sense for that family. If it’s 7 homes in 7 days because 162 people lost their lives and 8,000 homes were destroyed, then that’s what we’ll do. But if it’s one child who has cerebral palsy, and we can build a home for that girl to get around her home — in our world, both of those equally important,” said Connell.
The episode will air sometime in January.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will also air a special Veteran’s Day episode on Nov. 11 that will revisit the military families they have helped over the years.