George Verschoor interview on Fox’s Home Free Season 2

Posted on July 1st, 2016

George Verschoor with Tim Tebow and Mike Holmes

Reality Blurred

http://www.realityblurred.com/realitytv/2016/06/home-free-season-2-changes-interview/

by  30 JUN. 2016 | 1:30 PM

The big reality TV surprise for me last summer was Fox’s Home Free, a competition on which couples competed to win a home by first renovating homes for deserving families. The twist came at the end of every episode, when the eliminated couple would be asked by host Mike Holmes if they wanted to meet the deserving family whose house they’d just helped renovate. Holmes surprised them by pulling out a photo of the couple.

Yes, the people who just thought they’d lost discovered they’d won, and the reactions often turned them—and me—into emotional wrecks.

Because the magic hinged on that surprise—the rest of the show was okay but that moment was absolutely the best part—I never thought a season two would be possible, so I was delighted when Fox announced its return.

But the first two episodes have made Home Free seem like a dramatically different show—individuals competing and forming alliances; punitive judging; an elimination challenge—one that lacks season one’s joy.

I wanted to learn more about the changes. Yesterday, I interviewed Home Free’s showrunner, George Verschoor, who’s been involved with reality television since the beginning, producing and directing the first four seasons of The Real World, and going on to produce shows such as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, MTV’s Fear, and Nashville Star.

The second season twist
Season one had a “terrific twist that the audience responded to, but once that’s secret’s out,” Verschoor told me, “we couldn’t very well go out and cast another season, call it Home Free, and then say, Let’s find people we’re going to surprise again, because everyone would be aware of it. How do we keep that twist in the show? The idea was let’s find individuals who want to pay back somebody who’s had an enormous impact on their life, and they’ll be in on the twist with us, and they can surprise that individual.”

Home Free’s producers never thought of it as a once-and-done series. “We thought at the core of the show it could go on for some time,” Verschoor said. “It’s our job to find inventive ways [to do that] in season two, three, four, five, and so on.”

Verschoor said “this season it’s all about the heroes, and the question that came about that drove the show this year was, How far will you go for your hero? This person did it all for you and never gave up on you; how far will you go for them? Are you going to give up in house one, two, three, four, or are you going to go all the way and try to win the very best for them?”

Telling the contestants the losers would win
Season one’s twist wasn’t revealed to the losing couple until after the non-eliminated contestants had been driven away in a bus. In season two’s first episode, though, all of the contestants learned that the losing contestants’ heroes would still get a house.

Why tell them? And was there any thought about not revealing that twist?

“There was literally months of debate about this question,” Verschoor told me. “I think we all agreed, anyone who’s on Home Free knows, and anybody who sees that there are 10 homes is going to predict that: Look, we’re all going to get a home.”

“I think the audience would have figured it out after two or three episodes. What lie is sustaining this? You’d have construct some misdirect—we thought of many—but they were all a bit of an insult. Any lie that we come up with is just not going to be very plausible, so let’s just own it,” he said.

“But, the question is, Which home? And if you want the best for your hero, how long are you going to stay in the game? There is a sense of stakes because the homes get better and there’s $100,000 for whoever makes it to the very end.”

The $100,000 cash prize
Since the contestants know that they’ll win a house for their heroes if they lose, I asked if the prize was added to give them something to compete for, to add additional stakes.

“That wasn’t the motive for it, no,” Verschoor said. “This is a reward for whoever makes it to the end. When you ask these contestants, they all felt like they all wanted to keep going and going and going. They were motivated to stay in the game. So it really wasn’t necessary as a driver.”

Alliances, strategy, and game play
The game has taken a more strategic turn so far this season. Verschoor said. “I think when you ask the contestants, as we did during the course of the show, How far are you willing to go for your hero? you can see that they click into game mode, that some of them played the game very strategically: forming alliances, trying to eliminate others, and took more of a strategic approach. And others said, Look, I’m going to change who I am to play the game; I’m just going to do my very best and let the chips fall where they may. But I’m not going to start conniving.”

Last year, Home Free had lots of camaraderie and connection—after all, the final two couples were shared a deep bond, “the Mormons and the lesbians, together at last.”

Not so much this year. I agree with one contestant, Brian, who said last week, “To team up on me, it’s smart strategy, but at the same time, it’s ugly.”

I asked Verschoor if it was a surprise to the producers how quickly contestants went into game mode.

“It is a heartwarming show about celebrating heroes, and right when you think you’ve lost, you’ve won, so that was the driving force of this,” he said. “Yet at the same time we wanted to make it a bigger competition, and the way they decided to play was, What’s going to help me stay in the game the longest? Some chose alliances; others didn’t. I wasn’t surprised by it; I think it’s a natural inclination. And it’s a game.”

Verschoor added, “This rift between James and Maggie is probably one of the largest—one of the bigger fallouts of the question, How are you going to play the game? Moving forward, it really becomes about the challenges, the work, and the relationships—although the alliance with Maggie and Nick does have an impact in the long run.”

Casting individuals instead of couples
Season one’s cast members were all competing in pairs: there was one pair of siblings, and the rest were couples in various stages of their relationships. Season two has just individuals competing against each other to try to win a dream home for their personal hero.

“We felt because … we had the individual and hero, so there’s already two people—it’s that relationship we’re going to tell the story through,” Verschoor said. “So this season you really get to know the individuals through these heroes, through that story and connection. We felt like that was enough in terms of the amount of characters.”

Adding a co-host, Tim Tebow
The other major casting change was the addition of Tim Tebow. “We wanted to add someone who could be in the show from start to finish in every episode who went to this component of, How will you go for your hero? How far will you go in service of others? How far will you push yourself in service of others?” Verschoor said.

“We met Tim and it was just such a perfect match because he’s someone who lives his life to serve others, as well as he’s one of the most fierce competitors you’ll ever meet, who’s driven just beyond belief.” Tebow is “somebody who also knows, at the end of the day, do what’s best to help and serve others and change lives. He’s about all that.”

“That was his role that we wanted him to play to help Mike Holmes: to motivate these contestants, to push themselves beyond their limits, to help them someone change someone’s life like they’ve changed theirs,” Verschoor said.

Filming in one location
The production changed locations for every episode in season one, moving from house to house. All of season two takes place in an Atlanta suburb—Dallas, Georgia—and on the same street of a new subdivision, Oakleigh Pointe.

Did the production find its new home because it’d be easier to stay in one location?

“Yes, it was really hard to move every single week last year from location to location, though that wasn’t the deciding factor in this,” Verschoor said. “It was really about scale. We wanted to make the show bigger, we wanted to make the challenge of this more epic and feel larger than last season.”

“I did Extreme Makeover: Home Edition for many years, and we all wanted to take on something no one had ever attempted, which was build an entire neighborhood, build 11 houses. That was the bar we set. We didn’t even know if we could pull it off, so we set out to try to find a location where we could do it, and we were fortunate enough to find this development in the outskirts of Atlanta, where we were able to take over the entire development which hadn’t been started yet. So we were able to build the first street and then have enough room for our production footprint, which was enormous, and the space to spread out and have these challenge fields.”

Home Free constructed gates at the end of the street they built, and that “provided a game board for us,” he said. “In the development of this season, we wanted it to have that competitive, bigger game feel, and it enabled us to create this game board, if you will. Home Free Boulevard, with gates at either end, felt like a world you were entering into. It gave you that sense of an arena that you were coming into.”

Adding a challenge field
The location also has a dedicated space for challenge builds. Season one’s challenges often took place outside the renovated home, and were sometimes tied to the renovation (such as removing trash from a house), though were still obviously challenges (i.e. the trash looked like it had been placed there to give them a challenge).

I pointed out that the challenges felt even more disconnected this season, even though they’re pretty strong reality challenges.

“I see your point to some extent,” Verschoor said, “but I think this season, they were being tested on skill, will, and strategy. So a lot of these challenges were skill-based challenges or will-based tests that brought forth their abilities. And we could only somehow do that within the context of these games we could construct.”

The change in judging and Mike Holmes’ red tags
Some challenges do take place in the houses, Work Order tasks that Mike Holmes gives the teams. Verschoor pointed that out that “the red tags bring you the connection to the build. The whole middle of the show is still very connected to the construction of the house and their ownership of the house.”

The “red tags” he’s referring to are issued by Mike Holmes and signal that someone has failed to do a task properly, and anyone with a red tag is up for elimination at the end of the episode. For me, that’s turned Mike into a petty, punitive judge—issuing red tags for accidentally getting paint on a ceiling, for example.

By contrast, season one had Holmes and a pair of design experts judge the projects that the couples were assigned to complete, and Holmes was more supportive throughout.

Verschoor told me, “They’re still being judged on the same things. Skill is still skill. Last year was quality of work. It’s the same thing, so I would argue it’s a lateral step. They’re still being judged on that to determine who goes home.”

“And last year, it was the same: who built a table, who painted a room correctly, who scraped a ceiling, who built the picket fence at the front,” he said. “Last year, the judging occurred at the end of the show; this year it’s as we go. So Mike this season was judging that work and assessing it in the moment versus at the end, looking at the end result.”

How much work the contestants do
What’s clear on-camera is that the contestants don’t do all of the work constructing these brand-new homes (in season two) and doing massive renovations (in season one).

Verschoor said “that didn’t change. Mike Holmes and his team and our team do the lion’s share of the work. I don’t think there’s any misconception of that from last year or this year; it’s virtually the same. There are a lot of workers that are required to construct these houses in four days. That’s really what’s happening; these houses are really going up fast.”

He added, “to some extent argue this year they did probably more work in the house than last year. Last year they did a lot of DIY projects, design projects, and this year more it was more construction projects, flooring, drywall, roofing, and the like, you know, patios and things like that. They probably did more this year.”

The core of Home Free season two’s changes
“Yes, the format has changed has season to some extent. The game is bigger, the game is tougher,” Verschoor told me. “Every single one of these individuals is pushing to their limits to pay back somebody who changed their life, and I think that’s different than last year, which was serving themselves.”

“They’re playing a game to pay somebody else back,” he said. “I think that’s the shift in perspective.”

Verschoor brings new shows to hi-flying Nat Geo

Posted on March 25th, 2013

News broke today of two new series created and executive produced by George Verschoor – Die Trying and Building Wild.

From Deadline Hollywood -

Coming off its highest rated February in history, the National Geographic Channel is unveiling a slate of four new and seven returning series at its upfront presentation. The new series include Die Trying, featuring men and women pushing the limits of endurance; Building Wild, an extreme do-it-yourself-type home building series; “We want to keep the momentum, coming off pour best year (2012) and month (February) with a mix of contemporary entertainment styles,” said NGC Chief Executive Officer David Lyle.

BUILDING WILD
Wilderness zealots build incredible retreats in America’s last frontiers in NGC’s first do-it-yourself series. With help from Paul DiMeo (of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), these families are each creating a personal paradise thanks to a dash of muscle, a hint of ingenuity and a side of extreme architectural engineering.

DIE TRYING
A white-knuckle free-climb on an unconquerable mountain peak. A heart-stopping kayak expedition, battling rapids with 40-foot waves. Experience amazing, terrifying, never-before-seen (or done) adventures that define the riskiest of everything National Geographic represents. It’s where men and women push the limits of adventure, endurance and possibility — all in the name of science.

Verschoor, a pioneer of reality television (The Real World, Nashville Star, Extreme Makeover) currently has an overall deal with National Geographic Channel.

Border Wars Season 7 premier

Posted on November 5th, 2012

DRUGS. GUNS. HUMAN TRAFFICKING. MONEY.
THIS IS OUR FIGHT AT HOME

National Geographic Channel’s Critically Acclaimed Series Border Wars Returns With Unprecedented Access to Customs and Border Protection and Local Law Enforcement in the Effort to Secure the Border of South Texas

New Season Begins November 14 at 9 PM ET/PT

(WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 26, 2012) The stats are startling: more than 2 million pounds of marijuana confiscated yearly; more than 300,000 people apprehended trying to enter the U.S. illegally. With the United States’ vulnerable borderlands continuing to be an important issue, a new season of National Geographic Channel’s critically acclaimed series Border Wars delves into the challenges and complexities of protecting the border with Mexico in South Texas.

Border Wars documents the heartbreaking, jaw-dropping and action-packed side of the immigration issue on the border within the border cities. Determined to secure our borders, the officers and agents followed byBorder Wars are homeland warriors, risking their lives in some of the country’s most challenging and dangerous terrain. Border Wars premieres Wednesday, November 14, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on National Geographic Channel. For more information, visit www.natgeotv.com/borderwars and follow us on Twitter athttps://twitter.com/NGC_PR.

In this new season, Border Wars embeds with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and with local law enforcement as they patrol near and on the border. South Texas is a corridor for illegal drug smuggling. Human trafficking is also rampant,and CBP and local law enforcement are fighting back with advanced technology, special ops units and round-the-clock seizures and apprehensions.

Along the Rio Grande, the “front line” agents patrol nearly 1,900 milesof river in the air, on the water and in the brushlands. The men and women of CBP and local law enforcement will head into Rio Grande City. They’ll forge into Laredo, where Border Wars embeds with the local NARC unit that patrols one of the biggest land ports in the U.S. Cameras will travel into Brownsville at the southernmost tip of South Texas, where millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs and cash are seized, and into the Falfurrias checkpoint, as this is one of CBP’s last interdiction points for drugs and human traffickers as they make their way farther into the United States.

Border Wars new season episodes include:

Border Wars: Traffic
Wednesday, November 14, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
In the premiere episode, ride along as a CBP helicopter and Border Patrol riverboat assist agents on the ground as they pursue suspected drug mules running through the dense brush on an action-packed chase along the Rio Grande. A few miles east in the border town of Mission, Texas, local police raid a suspected drug stash house holding $2 million worth of marijuana. In nearby Edinburg, Texas, agents discover a house with undocumented immigrants living in deplorable conditions. And at the Falfurrias checkpoint, agents and officers suspect that a truck hauling watermelons may be transporting more than just fruit into the United States.

Border Wars: War Games
Wednesday, November 21, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Every day, U.S. law enforcement uses clever tactics against the smuggling operations that transport illegal goods over the border into the United States … and the smugglers fight back with their own tricks. In Mission, Texas, Officer Heather Schrock is in a high-speed chase with a car reported to be carrying drugs. Then, Agent David Maibaum teams up with a local High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program task force and K-9 unit to search a ranch that raises roosters—for cockfighting, agent Maibaum believes. When they find a kilo of cocaine, they assume there’s much more hidden elsewhere on the property. And in San Juan, local police go undercover on a sting operation to trap a suspected local cocaine dealer who may be connected to the cartels.

Border Wars: War on the Streets
Wednesday, November 28, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Go on patrol on the South Texas border, which is separated from Mexico only by the Rio Grande River. The ascendance of drug cartels in Mexico and their battle over smuggling routes has upped the stakes for both drug traffickers and undocumented immigrants attempting to cross into the United States. In Edinburg, Texas, follow a complicated mission to bust a stash house that involves a stakeout, interrogation and tackle. And with 70 illegal immigrants, this stash house is even more packed than expected. Then, rush into a house in Laredo and come face to face with the suspected dealers. And join veteran Border Patrol Supervisor David Maibaum, who is on a relentless pursuit to catch suspected drug traffickers moving bales from a raft into a vehicle by the Rio Grande River.

Border Wars: Special Ops
Wednesday, December 5, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
We’ll meet specially trained agents and officers equipped to combat the border problems that prevail in South Texas. Spend a night with the U.S. Border Patrol RIIP team—a team that adjusts their tactics and hours according to the current smuggling trends—as they track down a large group of suspected illegal immigrants hiding in the dense weeds on an embankment. Ride with an agent of CBP BORSTAR (a highly specialized team responding to emergency situations), whose primary goal is not necessarily to catch illegal immigrants, but to rescue those suffering in the brutal South Texas elements. Then, the head of San Juan Police Department’s NARC unit turns to the SWAT team and its tactical expertise to take down a suspected drug dealer without endangering the surrounding community.

For National Geographic Television, George Verschoor and Will Spjut are executive producers. For National Geographic Channel, executive producers are Alan Eyres and JT Ladt, and executive vice president, programming is Michael Cascio.

###

National Geographic Channels
Based at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Channels US are a joint venture between National Geographic and Fox Cable Networks. The Channels contribute to the National Geographic Society’s commitment to exploration, conservation and education with smart, innovative programming and profits that directly support its mission. Launched in January 2001, National Geographic Channel (NGC) celebrated its fifth anniversary with the debut of NGC HD. In 2010, the wildlife and natural history cable channel Nat Geo WILD was launched, and in 2011, the Spanish-language network Nat Geo Mundo was unveiled. The Channels have carriage with all of the nation’s major cable, telco and satellite television providers, with NGC currently available in 84 million U.S. homes. Globally, National Geographic Channel is available in 440 million homes in 171 countries and 38 languages. For more information, visit www.natgeotv.com.

Media Contact:
Stephanie Montgomery, 202-912-6632, smontgomery@natgeotv.com
1145 17th Street NW | Washington, DC 20036

Extreme Makeover nominated for Emmy

Posted on July 20th, 2012

“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” has been nominated for another Emmy!

The special Veteran’s Day episode “Rise and Honor”, which aired last November 11th, received a nomination for Picture Editing for Short-Form Segments and Variety Specials.

George Verschoor executive-produced this episode of Extreme Makeover with Brady Connell.

 

Former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr reunite for David Lynch benefit concert – to be broadcast on New York’s THIRTEEN on Sunday, April 29

Posted on April 15th, 2012

MEDIA ADVISORY

Former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr reunited on an American stage for the only time in the past 20 years during this historic 2009 Radio City Music Hall benefit concert, which will be broadcast on New York City’s channel THIRTEEN on Sunday, April 29, at 10:30 pm (check local listings for broadcast times and dates in your area).

The Beatle reunion highlights the 90-minute “Change Begins Within” concert to benefit the David Lynch Foundation, a charity set up in 2005 by the iconic filmmaker David Lynch to fund Transcendental Meditation programs for at-risk youth, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and women who suffer from domestic abuse and violence.

McCartney performs a set of Beatles, Wings and solo classics; Starr sings his own set of Beatle and solo hits; and McCartney and Starr join together on stage for a finale of “With A Little Help from My Friends,” Paul’s rarely performed “Cosmically Conscious,” and Beatle fan favorite “I Saw Her Standing There.”

Also appearing on the broadcast are comedian Jerry Seinfeld as well as musicians Sheryl Crow (“My Sweet Lord”), Eddie Vedder and Ben Harper (“Under Pressure”), Moby and Betty LaVette (“Natural Blues”), Paul Horn, newly-elected Rock-and-Roll-Hall of Famer Donovan  and Jim James (“Hurdy Gurdy Man”).

The concert was co-produced by Hoosick Falls Productions and David Lynch Foundation Television with executive producer George Verschoor.

Press contact: Elizabeth Freund, 718-522-5858, Elizabeth@BeautifulDayMedia.com for more information or to arrange an interview with David Lynch.

FACTS

The David Lynch Foundation has provided scholarships for more than 200,000 students and veterans to learn to meditate.

Transcendental Meditation is a simple, easily learned technique, practiced for 15 to 20 minutes twice daily, sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. According to research funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, the technique reduces stress and stress-related disorders, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, and substance abuse.

Prominent meditators include Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Russell Brand, Ellen DeGeneres, Clint Eastwood, Mehmet Oz, Martin Scorsese, Jerry Seinfeld, Russell Simmons, and Oprah Winfrey.

DAVID LYNCH FOUNDATION

654 Madison Avenue, Suite 805, New York, NY 10065
212-644-9880 • www.DavidLynchFoundation.org • info@DavidLynchFoundation.org

Former Beatles have not performed together since 2002

Posted on April 10th, 2012

From MTV.com-

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will reunite onstage for the upcoming “Change Begins Within” concert, which benefits the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. The concert, also featuring Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Sheryl Crow, Donovan, Ben Harper, Moby, Paul Horn, Bettye Lavette, and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, takes place at New York’s Radio City Music Hall on April 4.

The April 4 show marks the first time McCartney and Starr will perform together since 2002.

Airing on PBS stations this April 29th, “Change Begin Within” was executive-produced by George Verschoor and produced by Hoosick Falls Productions with the David Lynch Foundation.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Finally, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney 2009 reunion benefit show headed for TV

Posted on April 10th, 2012

From examiner.com-

“Change Begins Within,” the 2009 Radio City Music Hall benefit for the David Lynch Foundation that featured an on-stage reunion by Beatles Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, will finally make its TV debut next month almost three years after the show initially took place.

“Change Begin Within” was executive-produced by George Verschoor and produced by Hoosick Falls Productions with the David Lynch Foundation.

You can read the rest of the article here.

PBS to premier Beatles reunion benefit show on April 29th

Posted on April 10th, 2012

Coming to PBS this April 29th- former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr reunite onstage for the first time in 17 years!

The two came together to perform in the sold-out benefit concert “Change Begins Within” at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Other performers at the star-studded charity event included Sheryl Crow, Eddie Vedder, Jerry Seinfeld, Donovan, Jim James, Ben Harper, Moby, and Bettye LaVette.  David Lynch and Laura Dern hosted the event.

“Change Begin Within” was executive-produced by George Verschoor and produced by Hoosick Falls Productions with the David Lynch Foundation.

‘The Real World’ keeps rolling; two more seasons ordered

Posted on March 24th, 2011

 

The Hollywood Reporter announced that after airing only two episodes of season 25 in Las Vegas, MTV has ordered another two seasons of the genre-starting series ‘The Real World’.

Nielsen confirms that the second episode was up 24% from the previous week, getting 2.2 million viewers and was the #1 original cable series for the night.  All this after last season’s New Orleans-based episodes got a 25% increase in viewers over the previous season.

George Verschoor directed & produced the first four seasons of this culture-changing media phenomenon, and also developed the series with Mary-Ellen Bunim and Jonathan Murray.

The Real World Season 25 premiers tonight!

Posted on March 9th, 2011

Tonight on MTV- the premier of the 25th season of the show that “helped birth a genre that has eaten television whole”! 25 seasons later, Reality TV is everywhere, and The Real World started it all.  Originally directed and produced by George Verschoor, the show continues to be a ratings powerhouse- #1 among young viewers in it’s Wednesday 10pm time slot.  Last season was even up nearly 25% in viewers, averaging around 2 million every night. Here’s a video of the house tour!

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