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There is something totally appealing about Flipping Out, a Bravo TV reality show based on LA real estate speculator Jeff (I Can Still Move My Eyebrows) Lewis. Watching it is akin to taking a bath in the narcissistic, self-absorbed world that only a place like Southern California could produce. It is a visual and sensual homage to LaLa land and neo-narcissism; me to the power of a billion.
Home design as fodder for great comedy or should that be Greek tragedy? For there is something innately tragic about this program; maybe it’s the real human sentiment that’s running just beneath the surface of all that buying and flipping, not to mention all that firing and hiring.
It is also a testament to how far human evolution has progressed – where’s that meteorite when you need it? If Jeff Lewis is a symbol of how far we have come as a species — Darwin would not be amused; but then again, maybe he would be tickled pink — maybe this is just what we (mankind) rightly deserve.
Point is, Flipping Out is as entertaining as it gets. The characters are much more enjoyable than anything you will find on today’s hodge-podge of TV shows… only House comes anywhere close to capturing the quirkiness that is human nature at its finest.
Actually, it’s extremely hard to believe this reality show is not scripted. The characters are so odd-ball only a well marinated screenwriter could produce them in such abundance, or maybe real life in Southern California is such a magnet for eccentricity, anything is possible. Even then, to assemble them all in one reality show is a masterstroke, from Zoila the sassy Nicaraguan housekeeper to Chris the bumbling trash guy to the well-grounded partner Ryan; they all come across as solidly sketched and etched in our minds.
The only TV comparison that comes close to Flipping Out is Seinfeld. Perhaps this comparison is inevitable since Jeff’s sidekick and personal assistant Jenni bares an unnerving resemblance to Elaine. She calms Jeff down through one crisis after another… whether it be a foul-mouthed client, to removing human feces left behind by renovation workers, to buying the next multi-million dollar property.
While Jeff has an obvious talent for finding run-down real estate properties and totally re-designing them into highly profitable ones — he is, without a doubt, one of the most selfish and self-absorbed people you will ever have the pleasure of viewing. Everything in this neatly controlled world centers around Jeff and Jeff’s needs. Ordering take-out (which is the show’s favorite past-time) takes on a whole new meaning in this reality show. Hundred and Forty Degree Coffee, Anyone?
Watching Flipping Out is highly addictive; like any good reality-based show we are drawn into the characters’ lives without any holdbacks. We see all of Jeff’s flaws magnified: his obsessive compulsive disorder, his childish behavior, his self-absorbed personality, his obsession with balance and detail… he makes Holmes on Homes look like an amateur DIY builder. Well, not really but they do share the same passion for true build-quality that’s totally reassuring in today’s mortgage closure wasteland, aka mainstreet USA.
Jeff gets no respect, at least not from his employees whom he treats more like personal slaves than anything resembling equal human beings. From Jeff’s own admission, he consider himself the biggest babysitter in all of California rather than an employer. That’s probably for the best because the way he treats his employees it’s amazing how anyone could work for him and keep their self-respect intact. Just make sure you quit before he fires you so that you can hold on to that last hanging chad of human dignity.
Why Jeff comes across as ultimately a very likable guy is a total mystery. Maybe deep down we see more of Jeff in ourselves and our own actions than any of us would like to believe or even admit to — through empathy comes compassion. Who doesn’t want to be a total selfish jerk every now and then? Hedonism does have its takers, and narcissism does have more than a bit of fascination for the inner child in all of us. OCD aside, Peter Pan and Jeff Lewis got it right; nobody ever really grows up.
Who would have imagined it, home design as a life-lesson for all of us. Only in a reality TV show could such profane silliness be captured and enjoyed. Don’t be bothered that you should be bothered that bothers you… just welcome yourself to Flipping Out.