If you’re a fan or Minneapolis or bizarre TV, we can’t recommend this new 10-minute episode of Fox Business’ American Dream Home enough.
In an episode posted last week, viewers are introduced to Tom and Vanessa, a deeply religious couple who once lived in a 30th-story loft in downtown Minneapolis with surplus “character.” We see photos of the historic space, including ones of Tom and Vanessa whitewashing the antique brick and hardwood.
“We had the best view of the city you could have, it was very special,” Vanessa says over over twinkling, ominous music. “Then 2020 happened…”
Cut to five seconds of helicopter footage above a burning street after the police murder of George Floyd.
Then host Cheryl Casone comes to the rescue, backed by a peppy soundtrack as she hypes the hell outta the St. Croix River Valley, an outdoorsy, 94% white area where residents of both states “know how to have a great time.” She name-checks activities like sturgeon fishing and downhill skiing with the gusto of a car salesman—”no matter what you wanna do, you are covered.”
Why, exactly, are Tom and Vanessa escaping 35 minutes to the east?
“Riots, lootings, shootings, fires, and carjackings became a daily occurrence and were all around us. We knew our life as city slickers was coming to an end,” Vanessa tells Fox in a follow-up Q&A. “Gone were the days of walking to the gym or the grocery store—or even walking the dog by myself. Tom didn’t even want me to drive in the city alone for fear that I would get carjacked.”
The memories of still Minneapolis “haunt” the couple, Fox writes, adding “the city changed—and it was too much.” Faith in God served as the “guiding principle” to sell their condo.
The low-rent HGTV knockoff that follows shows Tom and Vanessa cruising the Wisconsin countryside in their pickup truck, hands clasped firmly together at all times. Casone rattles off housing price numbers for the area, seemingly suggesting that an 11% spike amounts to an exodus from the Twin Cities. (There’s no mention of the booming downtown Minneapolis condo market.) The success of Vanessa’s “social selling business,” which we’re told is much different than a MLM scheme, allowed them the flexibility to flee the downtown wasteland into which high-end developers are currently pouring hundreds of millions.
We get breakaway insight into Tom and Vanessa, both of whom were divorced, meeting at the gym. Tom recalls telling a friend that his next wife will be exactly six years older than him and have exactly two kids. “Voila!” A protracted shot of the couple hugging side-by-side segues into the housing search for something in the $850,000 range.
The crew films Tom and Vanessa scouting a 5,000-square-foot log cabin-style home that’s listed for $950,000. There’s some fun debate over how to pronounce sauna; there’s a secret room that their seven-year-old grandson Asher would love. (We see a photo of Asher holding a giant handgun.) Prime candidates for the cutting room floor, like a scene where Vanessa identifies the fireplace flue, remain intact. The episode concludes with Tom listing things he fundamentally doesn’t like about the property.
The fun of these shows is the side-by-side decision making, though we never see Tom and Vanessa in any other homes. Eventually, the couple found a completely different house in Hudson that Fox never shows or mentions. (Incidentally, Racket once highlighted the former Girl Scout lodge that’s situated inside the same luxury development.)
American Dream Home doesn’t succeed in producing intentionally compelling TV, and I’m a sucker for house-hunting shows, but its slapdash narrative should inspire approving nods from couch-bound Fox viewers; its almost Tim & Eric-ish production borders on parody. For Twin Cities homebuyers, the fear-based exit of Tom and Vanessa frees up much-needed inventory in the red-hot Minneapolis housing market.