The Washington Post
24 September 2017

LAUREL, Miss. —Ben Napier is massive, 6-foot-6, 300 lbs. His wife, Erin — 5-foot-5, slim — is not. She calls him “Big” and cranes her neck in such a constant state of adoration that she appears to be risking long-term muscle strain.

“Our show is a little bit ‘This Old House’ and a little bit ‘Gilmore Girls,’ ” says Erin, 32, standing in the living room of the morning’s second makeover house, where the Napiers are taping “Home Town,” the latest hit show on cable giant HGTV.

The show is a paean to this town of 19,000, once rich in loblolly pine, a town of handsome early- 20th-century houses and dismal 1970s downtown urban renewal, which the Napiers and their entrepreneurial friends are determined to undo.

Laurel has “seen some hard times,” says Ben, 34, in the show’s opening. “We’re committed to change that one house at a time.”

The Napiers — and Laurel — are rising stars of HGTV. This spring, more than 16 million viewers watched the debut season of “Home Town.” Driving around, it’s easy to spot the five houses that the show is simultaneously renovating for the second season, scheduled to air early next year. The driveways are crammed with dumpsters and a dozen production and construction-crew trucks. Visitors tour the historic district in search of last season’s renovations — and the Napiers’ yellow 1925 Craftsman home.

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