On Friday I talked to my friend who lives on the Extreme Makeover block in Kirkland, and I asked him what the crew was like, and he said that they're "super-nice." Yes, they applied gentle peer pressure in trying to get him to allow them to park trucks on his waterlogged front and back lawn (without offering to fix any damage afterward), but they didn't push him at all about it.
For the record, I think it's a good thing that this woman is going to get a new, safe house for her and her kids in 7 days or whatever, and that the folks who work on the show are nice, and that everyone is rooting for this good cause, and everything. I've never seen the show, but from what I've read, it does seem that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is a very fortuitous match of product placement and charity.
I guess it's too bad that something so good also seems a little unsavory.
This Smoking Gun article from last year shows a chirpy internal ABC memo about the types of stories they're looking for on EM:HE. It says they'd love to find a kid with "little old man disease" or congenital insensitivity to pain ("There are 17 known cases in US--let me know if one is in your town!"), an "amazing" kid with muscular dystrophy, or multiple kids with Down syndrome ("either adopted or biological").
At the time, they were also looking for "MADD / Drink Driving -- Family turns tragedy into triumph after losing a child to drunk driving."
I'd bet that families who have lost a child in a drunk driving accident are no longer being sought out. A few months ago host Ty Pennington pleaded no contest to a drunk driving charge after registering a blood-alcohol level of 0.14 percent, nearly twice the legal limit.