Home Town returns Sunday night for a fifth season on HGTV, and it's poised to be a season produced like no other. The home renovation series, which features married couple Ben and Erin Napier, persevered through the coronavirus pandemic, shooting 16 episodes in the Laurel, Mississippi, area for the new season. Construction and production crews had to follow strict new protocols to stay safe, and there were also unexpected hiccups in the renovation process that the Napiers had to work around to ensure each client gets the home of their dreams.
"Well, there's three facets in this (working during the pandemic). There is construction work, and there's 'TV Production World,' and there is 'Human Interaction World.' And it's impacted all three in very different ways," Erin told PopCulture.com in December." But in 'Construction World,' you can't get appliances anymore. That's very, very difficult. So beg, borrow, and steal to have a refrigerator in every kitchen. ... We don't know why this is happening with appliances, specifically because everything is messed up."
Ben added, "Literally, we're borrowing refrigerators so that we can reveal the house to the homeowner on time. And then we say, your refrigerator is on the way. It will arrive... It should arrive in six weeks."
In addition to the renovation headaches, the camaraderie on-set has also taken a hit. Those behind the scenes can't gather around for lunch and bond due to the protocols. Plus, special guests can't be spontaneously added into an episode due to required testing.
"With Home Town, and I don't know that it's like this on every show, but we've been together for several seasons," Ben said. "For a lot of them, it's been five years. And the best part of our job is crew lunch. We get together, everybody has lunch, and it's catered. And we talk about the day we laugh, we tell stories, and we don't get that. Everybody sits in their car alone and eats lunch."
Erin added, "(On) the human interaction side of things, a person cannot be on set or in a scene, unless they've been tested twice for COVID. And that is very complicated to schedule ahead. Well, because we have last-minute ideas, like 'Let's bring in so-and-so and do a cool thing about stained glass.' Well, they'll have to go get PCR tested four days in advance and then the morning of, and it's hard for them to schedule that. So it's complicated."
Despite these speed bumps along the way, the Home Town hosts hope the viewer doesn't feel them at all. While some fans will surely appreciate all the extra work that went in off-camera, the Napiers hope the final product serves as a respite from the hardships the world has faced this past year.
"We hope that the people watching don't notice at all, that they forget COVID exists because we've worked really hard to make it not exist in Home Town," Erin said.
Home Town's Season 5 premiere airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. The show will air in that time slot each week, with new episodes also appearing on discovery+, Discovery Inc.'s streaming service launching on Monday. A discovery+ spinoff, Home Town: Ben's Workshop, will also premiere Monday when the service launches.