Remember the original Extreme Makeover, the show that eventually inspired the spin-off Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? If not, ABC is probably breathing a sigh of relief. By the time the reality show ended in 2007 — after 52 episodes across four seasons — it was tainted with low ratings and a lot of controversy.
Much like The Swan, a show that ran concurrently on Fox, Extreme Makeover featured “ordinary” people undergoing drastic makeovers that often involved extensive plastic surgery. Thus, these shows arguably perpetuated the idea that happiness and success can only be found through facelifts and Botox injections. Calling it “the most violent show on TV,” a tongue-in-cheek Slate review said Extreme Makeover was a “weekly documentary on which two homely people are sawed and sanded into two beautiful people — and thus granted deliverance from the travails of existence.”
Critics also blamed the show for popularizing plastic surgery. Cosmetic procedures spiked 44 percent from 2003 to 2004, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, an uptick that coincided with Extreme Makeover’s first and second season.
Plus, detractors said, the show glossed over the aftermaths of these extreme makeovers, epilogues that a 2003 TIME article explored. When one participant returned home, for example, her six-year-old niece couldn’t recognize her and her co-workers resented her so much that she switched jobs. “Her story, like those of other recipients of Extreme Makeover’s aesthetic magic, shows that when ugly ducklings become swans (particularly if surgery is involved) ruffled feathers can ensue, not to mention a fair amount of swelling — physical, emotional and social," TIME observed.
It didn't take long for the show to fall out of favor with viewers, going from its first season stance at #41 in the rank of TV programs to #175 in its last season. (In fact, two episodes of that last season never even aired.) Meanwhile, its spin-off, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, was a far bigger hit, lasting twice as long and airing nearly four times as many episodes.
And though Home Edition had its fair share of controversy — including allegations of shoddy construction — it certainly didn’t exacerbate unrealistic beauty standards. After all, judging homes by their looks is a lot different than judging humans!