HGTV; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Discovery Inc.
We've never had a closer relationship with our houses — and gardens — than in 2020, as coronavirus has made sheltering at home the new normal. Whether you're tired of your four walls and want to escape to fantastic views of other domiciles or you're inspired to do more with that spare room, out-of-date kitchen or uncultivated corner of the backyard, you'll find shelter shows to be this year's must-see TV.
But where to begin? Where to binge? Use our critics’ list to dig in.
Flip or Flop (HGTV)
Can former-husband-and-wife Realtors Christina and Tarek El Moussa purchase a risky fixer-upper, renovate it and put it on the market without going underwater? In every HGTV episode over nine seasons, the Orange County, California, pair give it a try, confront seemingly insurmountable plumbing and foundation issues, frequently turn a profit — and inspire viewers with home do-it-yourself projects and an entrepreneurial real estate spirit.
Desperate Landscapes (DIY Network)
Sometimes just mowing the lawn isn't enough. In this straightforward DIY Network outdoor makeover show, which began in 2007 and runs 143 episodes, host actor-model-carpenter Jason Cameron takes on the grounds of a lucky homeowner “desperate” for a new look and provides handy ideas for viewers at home. Overgrown weeds, broken walkways and dead trees: Beware!
Love It or List It (HGTV)
Over seven seasons on this Canadian-American home-design series, congenially competitive hosts David Visentin and Hilary Farr — he's an actor-Realtor; she's a designer and home stager — spend a half hour addressing a guest couple's issues with their existing home. The hosts pursue two options: renovating the property within a budget with an eye toward a sale, and offering the guests an alternative to purchase. So, will the owners love their newly redesigned palazzo courtesy of Hilary, or sell it to buy one of David's suggested properties? In short: Will they love it or list it?
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Curb Appeal (HGTV)
Can 26 seasons, 337 episodes and a host (John Gidding) to rival the Property Brothers be wrong? Since 2002, the inspirational half hour landscaping show on HGTV has demonstrated to viewers how to upgrade their greenery and home exterior from foliage to front door, boosting the looks of plain-Jane houses to star status.
Where to watch: HGTV by subscription
RELATED: Not sure what else to watch this week? Consider our critics’ picks, from new shows on the networks to the best options on Netflix and Amazon. The list is fresh each weekend. Check it out here: What to Watch on TV and Streaming This Week
Good Bones (HGTV)
Heartland look-alike mother-daughter team Karen E. Laine and Mina Starsiak Hawk know their way around a wrench as they remodel properties in their native Indianapolis. Over five seasons, there's relatively nothing they can't accomplish — from updating tiny houses to drafty Victorians — with good humor and hard work.
The Big Flower Fight (Netflix)
If you're someone who is keen on competition in unscripted shows, try this mad new 2020 eight-episode British garden program. Hosts Natasia Demetriou, Vic Reeves and Kristen Griffith-Vanderyacht track 10 pairs of florists, landscapers and sculptors as they create al fresco artworks from flowers, shrubs, vines and assorted plants. It's Rose Parade meets Edward Scissorhands.
Where to watch: Netflix
House Hunters International (HGTV)
Using the same unscripted format as its HGTV domestic version, this half hour show follows a couple exploring their foreign options with a knowledgeable real estate agent. What would it be like to buy a pied à terre in downtown Buenos Aires or a husk of a villa in tawny Tuscany? Is retirement really possible in Panama or Uruguay? There's no need to worry about getting lost in translation as we snoop around the apartments and palazzi around the globe from our sofas.
RELATED: Want to add some food TV to the mix? Our critics have you covered with this special list of the best food shows to binge on right now. See our list and links to watch here: 11 Food and Cooking Shows to Cure Your Corona Blues
Tiny House Nation (FYI)
Downsizing way, way down? Over two seasons on FYI since 2019, host John Weisbarth and pro Zack Giffin get small while touring the U.S. and exploring the micro-home trend. They ingeniously address living spaces that are less than 300 square feet — and raise that question of how much bonding is too much when cohabiting with your family in such a wee house.
Fixer Upper (HGTV)
Who doesn't want a bargain? Who doesn't want to take that galley kitchen with the avocado electric appliances and transform it into a cook's entertaining platform with a stainless steel gleam? In this show that ran from 2013 to 2018, shelter superstars Chip and Joanna Gaines make it seem easy to take the biggest mess in the nicest neighborhood and transform it into real estate gold — with the help of a FuBar, a hammer and some serious sweat equity.
Grand Designs (Netflix)
In the fantasy home-builders league, host Kevin McCloud tracks down unusual one-of-a-kind dwellings and follows their construction from plans to landscaping. On this British unscripted TV show, launched in 1999 and running over 200 episodes, mild-mannered McCloud travels from southern Ireland to West London to the Isle of Skye, nosing around as owners transform riverside boathouses and create boxy new-builds, even create radical dream houses — and move on in.
Where to watch: Netflix
Property Brothers (HGTV)
Tall, dark and handsome identical twins, real estate expert Drew Scott and contractor Jonathan Scott have become a cottage industry. The Canadian charmers serve up practical home-renovation hints with a side of good-natured sibling rivalry over nine unscripted seasons on HGTV. The brand of the entrepreneurial brothers, who started their first business at age 7, includes seven TV series as well as books and Meredith's recently launched Reveal magazine.
This Old House (PBS)
For vintage-home lovers, and those who want to enjoy historic details without the endless upkeep, this PBS granddaddy of shelter shows has led the way. Now in its 41st season, the half hour syndicated show launched in 1979 boasts current host Kevin O'Connor and a no-nonsense team of plumbing and HVAC experts, landscapers and general contractors. Together they chronicle renovating homes across America; a current four-episode special, “Rebuilding Paradise,” addresses home revivals in wildfire-ravaged Paradise, California.
AP Photo/Matt Dunham
Gardeners’ World (BBC)
The BBC's essential British garden show has been running continuously since the Summer of Love — that's some hardy growth! Originally from the Oxford Botanic Garden, with a magazine tie-in (BBC Gardeners’ World) and the very helpful companion site gardenersworld.com, the show offers practical advice and endless ingenuity — without getting dirt under your fingernails or ticks inside your socks.
Where to watch: Britbox
House Hunters (HGTV)
The HGTV classic real estate shopping show is terrific entertainment for two major reasons. The first: If you're snoopy about real estate, this long-running unscripted show (since 1999) follows a couple visiting three potential homes in their budget and proposed neighborhood — and you can peek alongside them without pretending to have a down payment. The second: It's a guilty pleasure to watch the potential purchasers interact as if they're oblivious to the camera as conflicts bubble up while discussing crown molding, shag carpeting and whether a man cave is really appropriate in the 21st century. (Bonus: Check out House Hunters: LOL, the network's Mystery Science Theater 3000–style homage, which invites comedians to snark along with viewers on their couches.)