First Impressions of Good Bones on HGTV

Breaking down the formula for the new <em>Good Bones</em> home-renovation show.
You can count on two things on HGTV: Homeowners will want an open-concept living space, and each show will stick to its script, week in and week out. After two episodes, the blueprint for Indy-based Good Bones (Tuesdays at 10 p.m.) appears set. The show features renovations by the mother-and-daughter (-and-son-and-his-friends-and-a-father-figure) team of Karen E Laine and Mina Starsiak, aka Two Chicks and a Hammer, turning burnout houses in Fountain Square and Bates-Hendricks into $220,000 gentrifications.


Mina’s voiceover reads a classic HGTV tagline that incorporates the show’s name. “Every tragic house deserves a second chance—because underneath all that mess, you might find really good bones.” It’s not quite as catchy as Joanna Gaines’s “Do you have the guts to take on a fixer-upper?” but more evocative than one HGTV narrator’s “Will they love it—or list it?”

The setup.

Mina and Karen live next to each other in Fountain Square and want to improve their neighborhood by renovating houses together. You see Karen’s amazing backyard pond as the two talk over their fence about the day’s plans, followed by beauty shots of the neighborhood’s Cultural Trail and fountain. Mina is established as the ringleader, Karen as a gentle soul who wants to save the world.

The clients.

There are no clients at this point—which means no tiresome requests for an open floor plan! No one pretending their lives are an exciting whirlwind of constant entertaining!

The house.

Mina and Karen check out a derelict property they’ve purchased—sometimes for as little as $7,000, and never more than $30,000. These houses, they say, often don’t even come with keys. “A screwdriver is our key,” Mina jokes (not really) as they jimmy open a window. In the first episode, the abandoned property had squatters—and their housecat. They walk through and talk about taking down walls (or not—in a refreshing HGTV moment, the women leave the closed floor plan of a house in Bates-Hendricks intact). Several times in the episode, the Chicks mention that their profit margin isn’t high (around $30,000 per house, split between them), and they really just want to help their community. Karen talks about broken-down houses like they’re puppies—and their motivation seems genuine. “I don’t want to build crappy houses for my neighbors,” she explains, telling HGTV’s audience what Indiana is all about.

Karen salvages something from the mess.

In the walk-though, Karen comes across pieces of junk she can rescue—geodes, a broken floor lamp, floral wallpaper in a closet. Cue a soundbite revealing Karen’s sentimental side: “If I can bring these little found objects to life, it’s just like bringing the whole house back to life.”

Hoo, boy—meet Tad.

On demo day, Tad and his crew arrive to help his mom and sister take the house down to the studs. The boys, including a friend named Bobkat, look like they came straight from Carb Day, wearing cut-off T-shirts, bandanas, and grins that make Mina warn them not to do anything stupid. Tad evidently can demo an entire house by kicking things, and he would take Chip Gaines in a bar fight, easily. Mina calls Tad her best friend and tries to prove that she can demo better than he can. Ronda Rousey would play Mina in a movie. You want Mina and Tad to be your drinking buddies.

Lenny time!

Mina introduces her contractor, Lenny, as “my father’s third wife’s first husband” who has just “always been around.” He seems rock-solid and good-humored, and Karen adores him. “He’s just so awesome in every conceivable way!” she squeals at one point on a job site. “You’re such a brown-noser,” Mina says. “You should try that,” Lenny replies. “The prices might come down.” HGTV: more Lenny!

A cool Indy bar.

With renovations underway, Mina and Karen meet at one of the area’s hangouts to make design decisions. Fountain Square Brewery and Hotel Tango Distillery got some love in the first two episodes. Wildwood Market looked terrific when the duo took a lunch break there. In the first episode, they chose a daring bright green for the exterior of a small house—because, Karen said, they want to attract the kind of neighbors who will go for that sort of thing. It reinforces the message that the two are truly invested in the near-south side.

Karen’s project.

Back at Karen’s house, the earth mother works her magic on a found object to return to the house. For the Victorian in Bates-Hendricks, she came up empty hunting for matching rosette trimwork at Audrey’s Place on East 10th Street and decided to make her own. When Mina checks in with Karen, her kitchen counter is covered with 15 perfect plaster replicas. (The geodes became lamp bases when she cracked them open to reveal sparkly interiors.)

The inevitable construction delay.

Mina and Karen encounter a minor issue, like uncooperative subcontractors. “I have no faith in all the drywall mudders in Indiana,” Mina grumbles at one point. But the problem is easily resolved and doesn’t serve as one of HGTV’s weak fake-outs. Back to the warm-and-fuzzy feelings!

Final push.

After more shots of Fountain Square at its most vibrant and colorful, there’s a fast-mo montage of landscapers, painters, electricians, woodworkers. Then Karen and Mina go shopping for staging decor at HomeGoods. No one is there—they must film this spot when the store is closed. And we’re guessing HomeGoods lets them borrow merchandise for the publicity. Kittle’s provided some, too, according to the credits.

The reveal.

Mina and Karen bring someone to the house (buyers in the first episode, previous owners in the second). They walk through pointing out design details, as well as Karen’s salvage projects. That old floral wallpaper became a beautiful framed swatch and established a color palette for a room. Both of the first two houses sold for over $220,000, suggesting that the window for a steal in Fountain Square and Bates-Hendricks might be closed even though the spotlight just arrived.