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An Ode to ‘Fixer Upper,’ the Show That Was So Much More Than Shiplap

Goodbye to the Waco king and queen of house flipping, Chip and Joanna Gaines.

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Chip and Joanna Gaines on the roof of the Alico, the tallest building in Waco.
photograph by Jeff Wilson

Y’all: the world as we know it has come to a grinding halt. Or, at least, the shiplap industry has. This morning, house flipping royalty Chip and Joanna Gaines announced via their website that after five seasons, Fixer Upper will end.

For some, this is just the conclusion to yet another reality TV show. But for those of us who loved Fixer Upper—those loyal fans who remember instant classic the Barndominium, who know Clint Harp made the best locally-sourced, custom-built, outrageously large kitchen tables, who rooted for Waco’s golden couple as they tore up and rebuilt their city—it’s the end of an era.

I’m surprised at how devastated I am by this news. I’ve lived in Texas for over seven years, and the show introduced me to Waco. It’s common in the Lone Star State to hear the city associated with a string of bad luck, but for me, a Texas transplant, Waco was always the home of Fixer Upper. I was three years old—and lived in Virginia—at the time of the Branch Davidian massacre, so I never saw the town as anything more than a traffic jam between Austin and Dallas. But once I started watching the Gaineses flip houses, I was transfixed. As the housing market exploded in Austin, I marveled that it was still possible to buy a house in Waco for $30,000 and turn it into something that looks like it came out of the pages of Southern Living.

Fixer Upper wasn’t a show that I tuned into every week: it was more of an old friend that you haven’t texted in a while, but occasionally still see around on Facebook. Your lives are different now, and maybe they make some questionable choices about that Lego wall in the aforementioned Barndominium, but if you start talking to them, everything’s just as it was, regardless of how much time has passed.

So when the news hit that the Gaineses would be ending the show that launched a city—and other instantly popular Magnolia properties, like the Silos—I expected my fellow Texans in the office to share my sense of loss over what is inarguably an iconic show in the Lone Star State.

Nope.

“I haven’t seen it,” was the universal response from the Texas Monthly writers and editors. Other choice quotes from these so-called Texans (who shall remain anonymous for their own protection) include:

I don’t even really know what shiplap is tbh. I know it’s wall stuff but that’s about it.

who has watched the show???

 Never seen an episode either.

I’ll ask my step mom—she loves it.

My disbelief was swift and unrelenting. The only thing my colleagues knew about Fixer Upper was the show’s (justified) affinity for shiplap. As they scurried to find out what this mysteriously chic wall covering was, I immediately pointed out—as any true Fixer Upper fan would— that the only shiplap worth having was sourced from an original house built in the first half of the twentieth century. Besides, everyone knows that Jo’s design sensibility had, in later episodes, evolved beyond plastering the stuff all over the walls. But I digress.

So, on behalf of my fellow devoted fans, let me set the record straight: Fixer Upper was so much more than shiplap. Unlike its predictably bland counterpart House Hunters, viewers got to know the Gaineses—sometimes exasperated, sometimes cute, always relatable—over the show’s five-season run. And not just the show’s stars. Chip and Jo’s children were often featured: feeding goats, assisting with placing the final details on a house, enjoying a dessert on the front porch, or endearingly trying not to touch anything in an antique shop. Then there was the adorable, quirky chemistry between the two stars: a good-natured affection that included moments when Jo stared with bemused disbelief as Chip ate a cockroach and Chip throwing Jo a surprise anniversary party (a far cry from the stone-cold interactions of other HGTV flippers Tarek and Christina, who have filed for divorce). In a brilliant move by producers, HGTV provided space for Chip and Jo to be, frankly, kind of weird. I—and millions of other viewers—ate it up.

What could possibly bring this design juggernaut to a seemingly abrupt and early end? Hopefully, Chip and Jo are leaving the show behind to focus on their other ventures—their magazine, Magnolia Journal, or the ongoing success of Magnolia Market and Magnolia Bakery, not to mention Jo’s upcoming cookbook and Target collaboration. (There’s no skincare line in the works, unfortunately, as she pointed out on Instagram.) I fear the worst—marital trouble brewing between one of reality TV’s most beloved couples—but their announcement gives fans hope for their partnership, both domestic and professional: in their video statement sharing the news, Chip and Jo hold hands while expressing optimism about what the future holds, reassuring fans that they aren’t done with Waco or renovating houses.

It’s the end of the cultural phenomenon that launched a shabby-chic aesthetic, oversized kitchen islands, minimal-yet-tasteful open shelving with matching dishware, and rustic wood accents. The reason for its demise might become clear in the future, but for now, millions of distraught Fixer Upper fans and forlorn shiplap-company executives will have to be content with one last season, premiering November 28, in addition to a spinoff featuring a behind-the-scenes look at Jo’s design process. After that, it’s all reruns—and we all know that an episode’s big finale moment, when Chip and Jo wheel apart the gigantic billboard to reveal their design masterpiece, just won’t be the same without the suspense of a first viewing.

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