Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (tv program)

The house that home-makeover shows built

The house that home-makeover shows built

When "This Old House" premiered on the Boston PBS station WGBH in 1979, few could have predicted it would spawn an entirely new television genre: the home-improvement show. The series that made Bob Vila a household star and inspired the top-rated sitcom "Home Improvement" also sparked a seemingly insatiable American appetite for real estate programming — a format that mushroomed in the '90s thanks to HGTV.

The cable network originally specialized in how-to programming on crafts, decorating and gardening. But following the premiere of what would become its flagship series, "House Hunters," in 1999, HGTV began to focus more narrowly on real estate...