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‘Zillow Gone Wild’ Shows Off America’s Wildest and Wackiest Homes

HGTV show hosted by actor Jack McBrayer placates our desire to be nosy neighbors


spinner image Jack McBrayer standing on white spiral staircase with big gold railing, in house with white walls
Host Jack McBrayer takes viewers on a insider tour of unusual and inventive homes on HGTV's "Zillow Gone Wild."
Courtesy HGTV

You just never know what goes on behind closed doors, and HGTV’s new show Zillow Gone Wild proves just that. Host Jack McBrayer, 50, known for his role as Jack the page on 30 Rock, interviews homeowners, sellers and real estate agents to learn the history of America’s wackiest and wildest homes.

The series, which debuted May 3, follows McBrayer — a self-professed “proud member of AARP” — as he explores multiple homes across America, including the “Saxophone House,” which was built by an amateur jazz musician in Berkeley, California, in 1996 and features sweeping gold touches and two massive golden saxophone-shaped exterior columns.

spinner image Big white house with two massive golden saxophone-shaped exterior columns and gold railings with large gold music notes on them
The “Saxophone House," built in 1996, was designed by jazz musician Henry Cotton.
Courtesy HGTV

“I got to tour these wild, unique homes all across the country,” McBrayer tells AARP. “I think we all just have a natural degree of voyeurism and definitely curiosity.”

Another standout is a Palm Springs midcentury modern home the show dubbed the “Pink Palace.” It’s the perfect purchase for a swinging ’60s Mad Men fan or a renovation zealot ready to transform the bold fuchsia and black lacquer palette to more historically accurate hues. The house was built for one of the famed Gabor sisters, Magda, making it an exciting find for fans of the era. Then there’s the ultimate man cave: an abandoned missile silo. It’s not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic. “Yes, as I traveled seven stories underground inside an abandoned missile silo, there were opportunities to be creeped out,” McBrayer notes. “But you find out that, no, this is fun. I love hearing why the owner was so drawn to this. What is the appeal? What inspired you to choose it?”

spinner image Pink house with shrubs in front and on the sides and mountains behind it
The “Pink Palace” in Palm Springs, Calif., was built in 1964 for Magda Gabor.
Courtesy HGTV

McBrayer says it was fascinating to learn the owners’ emotional connections to their living spaces: “Every single one was so different,” he says. “But I especially loved hearing the stories from the owners because it informed you. It told of the inspiration behind it. It was fun to see their passion.”

 

A social media phenomenon

It all started in late 2020, when we were bored and spending time confined to our own homes. Then the Instagram account Zillow Gone Wild started feeding us imagery of delightfully bizarre homes, and we were hooked. Many were seemingly ordinary on the outside but shocking on the inside, like the 12,089-square-foot home built on top of an underground miniature town, the one with a replica of the Oval Office and another containing an extraordinary number of taxidermized animals. With each post, the follower count grew across Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and X (formerly Twitter), gaining traction almost immediately, says Samir Mezrahi, who created the brand and newsletter.

“It just really blew up and hit the world at the right time,” says Mezrahi, who is an executive producer for the HGTV show. The houses filmed hadn’t been previously posted on the social media accounts and were chosen using different criteria — HGTV’s primary focus is on the unusual and side-eye inducing. The featured dwellings could easily be home to an old-world vampire or a modern TV buff. Expect a Las Vegas pirate lair, a decaying and decadent New Orleans historic home and a wholesome Hollywood Disney princess cottage. There’s also a Midwest bastion and a desert compound that evokes the Tatooine sets of Star Wars.

“The TV series, I think, just really elevates [the Zillow Gone Wild social media accounts]. A lot of what I’m doing is the listings,” Mezrahi says. “With Jack being an amazing host, he takes it to another level, actually touring the homes, talking to the homeowners or agents … telling a better story of why the home is the way it is,” Mezrahi says. “Photos don’t do the homes justice in really being able to get the sense of scale and layout.”

 

spinner image Aimee Ashe pointing to something, Jack McBrayer looking up at it inside a home with plants hanging from the ceiling and more on the floor, piano on the left, fireplace on the right
Realtor Aimee Ashe shows McBrayer the beauty of this 1860's New Orleans home.
Courtesy HGTV

Something for everyone

In one episode, Realtor Aimee Ashe, who works with her mom, Liz Ashe, in New Orleans, walks McBrayer through a ghostly New Orleans cottage that was built in 1860. The home appears as though in active disrepair, with exposed beams and wallpaper and paint at various stages, as though someone tired of the projects midway and left. But there’s a gothic beauty to it as well, and it serves as an event space for weddings and parties.

“This is a step back in time — a design choice,” says Ashe. “The seller is a historic renovator, and when they purchased this house, [they] saw the beauty that it could be, and that it once was.” Vines cascade from the ceilings and the yard boasts a beautiful private pool. And for $1,450,000 it can be yours.

The listings featured on Zillow Gone Wild are the combined product of myriad professional architects, contractors and decorators, as well as the homeowners themselves. Whether the show will influence new builds and renovations is yet to be seen, though at least one architect is ready.

Lindsay Woolf, lead architect at New Orleans, Woolf Architecture & Interiors, shares that many of her clients have unusual requests, such as hidden nooks and crannies, inverted umbrellas as light fixtures and outdoor labyrinths — but nothing yet that would ascend to the level of Zillow Gone Wild.

“If a client came to me after watching Zillow Gone Wild, I would absolutely be interested in creating something unique for them,” she says. “I certainly think bizarre ideas featured on the series could influence design trends.”

Each home on the show is judged by the Wild Dial, three gauges that measure creativity, commitment and wackadoo. (Yes, wackadoo!) Viewers are encouraged to actively participate by entering a contest to correctly guess the craziest house out of the eight finalists to be crowned the Wildest House on the penultimate episode, airing June 21.

“We want this to be celebratory and exploratory, a positive experience for both the viewer and the people we’re engaging with [the homeowners],” says McBrayer. “I think it’s just human nature to be curious to see how other people are living.”

 

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