‘‘Why hasn’t somebody done this before?” That’s the question that the best, or at least the most entertaining, reality shows provoke. And I’d put “Four Houses” (9 p.m., TLC) in those categories.
‘‘Four Houses” invites homeowners to do what we all like to do: go inside other people’s houses and judge them as tacky, sterile or otherwise lacking, secure in our pride that our homes (and, by extension, our lives) are superior.
Every episode features four homeowners with a self-professed flair for design who visit and evaluate each others’ places. The home that gets the highest ratings for decor, originality and livability wins $10,000 for its owner.
The debut of “Houses” features four New Jersey homeowners from very different backgrounds. There’s a preppy Princeton princess with a vast Colonial worth more than $2 million. She thinks she’s “quirky,” but the others think she’s designed her home to look like any number of unrelated catalogs. There’s a real estate broker and apparent bachelor dude with a house overlooking Manhattan. He has a million-dollar view, but his home remains a blank canvas. A woman of Eastern European heritage has designed her chalet-style home with a startling austerity that some find original and that others find vaguely witchy.
Then there’s an artist who has cobbled together a personal vision straight out of a whimsical Tim Burton horror movie, complete with taxidermy, dead things in vats and bottles, and homoerotic self-portraits that leave little to the imagination. Despite their widely divergent tastes and lifestyles, the four homeowners in this episode treat one another with polite respect that occasionally verges on affection.
If “Four Houses” has a fault, it’s that it places so much emphasis on homes and items and takes no time to explain who, besides the owners, lives in them. Does the Princeton woman have a big family? With whom does the artist share his enchanted playhouse? Some backstories would illuminate each owner’s choice of dwelling and decor and make “Four Houses” — a fun, voyeuristic hoot — even better.
Tonight’s other highlights
• U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials (7 p.m., NBC).
• “Tim Tebow’s Wild Rise” (7 p.m., E!) examines a football player whose celebrity has transcended his sport.
• Competition continues on “America’s Got Talent” (7:30 p.m., NBC).
• Lisa Kudrow’s “Web Therapy” (10 p.m., Showtime) returns for a second season.