On View : Lifetime's 'Home' Spin

Beth Kleid is a frequent contributor to TV Times and Calendar

Don't compare Marc Summers, the host of Lifetime's new show "Our Home," to Tim Allen's tool-happy character on "Home Improvement." And he's no renovation maven like TV's popular Bob Vila, either.

"Far from it," says Summers, who nevertheless will be the latest TV host to help viewers make home sweet home a little sweeter. This by way of his new hourlong daytime show, bowing Monday, devoted to the humble abode. "I'm scared to even hang a picture in my house for fear of doing it wrong, having a hole in the wall, having to plaster and paint."

But his lack of expertise, he says, will be a strength as he leads the audience through the joys of making the most of their living quarters. "I think I'm sort of the anybody who's watching at home who for years has seen other people do this stuff. . . I can be a bridge to help them build their confidence. They don't realize that they can do these things."

You-can-do-it is the "Our Home" theme song. "The bottom line for the show is how to, how to, how to everything," says the show's executive producer, Erika Bishop.

How to make a tiny bathroom look bigger. How to do faux finishes. How to do window treatments on the cheap. How to make stained glass. How to make your own slipcovers. "Slipcovers are really hot right now. We have to be looking at what's on the cutting edge," says Bishop.

The show also aims to help viewers keep an eye on their wallets. It plays right into the '90s-style stay-at-home-and-save-money trend. "The whole nesting thing, cocooning, those are real catch phrases, but the reality is, home life is where it's at," Bishop notes.

But how can "Our Home" be so confident about nesting on the daytime schedule when a similar show, ABC's long-running "Home," recently lost its lease? The now-defunct "Home" also was packed with an eclectic mix of how-tos. In fact, Summers himself is a five-year veteran of the show. On "Home," he covered family-related issues and occasionally subbed for co-host Gary Collins. Carol Duvall, "Home's" crafts expert, is making the move to "Our Home" along with Summers.

Similarities aside, Peggy Allen, the Lifetime vice president overseeing the show, says that "Our Home" will be more contemporary than its predecessor. "We're going to take our cues more from the women's service magazines. There's an assumption that the woman is intelligent and that she wants to be as proud of her home and her wardrobe and her cooking as she would anything else in her life."

"The whole concept that whatever women are doing at home during the day must mean they're idiots, is wrong," says Allen, insisting that her program will show more respect for its viewers (who are expected to be mostly women). Her catch phrase for the show: "intelligent fun."

Bishop agrees that "Our Home" will have a fresher attitude in an attempt to appeal to young women. "You don't have to be later in your years to enjoy doing things in the home." She's aiming at the VH-1 crowd. "They're in the late 20s and early 30s, they've made some money, and they're home having babies."

To get the video generation to take notice, the homey feeling of the show will be revved up. "The energy level will be higher. It'll move faster," Bishop says.

The set, reminiscent of a photo spread in Victorian magazine, also will be a draw for style groupies. Bishop describes the look: an old home with wainscoting, leaded glass Queen Anne windows, a fireplace, reading nooks.

Another element that differentiates the show: "This isn't couch chat. No one's going to sit and talk about an issue. You've got tips in every segment," Bishop says. Tips not only about decorating, but on other ways to enhance home life, including cooking and gardening.

Don't expect to learn 10 things to do with an old milk carton, though. "This is not decorating with leftover coffee cans and making jewelry out of dried cheese," says Allen. The crafts will be more upscale: How about 10 things to do with roses? Make a rose necklace in the Cuisinart, a rose candle and rose jelly with Summers and craftswoman Duvall.

Producer Bishop says that her host "is the biggest thing that makes the show stand out."

Summers, with his background in comedy and his experience as host of Nickelodeon's kids' shows "Super Sloppy Double Dare" and "What Would You Do?," says he'll bring a looseness and humor to his hosting duties. An example: In a recently taped segment on the merits of homemade baby food, he chose the store-bought stuff every time in a blindfolded taste test. "It got to be very funny," he says.

Bishop points out that "Our Home" will fill a void in TV programming. She also hopes to attract some of the 2 million to 3 million viewers a day left homeless when ABC's "Home" show went off the air.

"People want to know this information," she says. She knows that firsthand, having just renovated her home in suburban New Jersey.

"It's funny. I'm a career woman and always have been, but my home life is extremely important. I think I'm the perfect Lifetime viewer."

"Our Home" airs weekdays at 10 a.m. and repeats at 2 p.m. on Lifetime.

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