Ed Amatrudo - The Foreclosure King 

Cable is glutted with slickly produced home-improvement shows, all eagerly instructing viewers how to flip a flat, amp up curb appeal or stage a sunroom like an old pro. By contrast, the Nashville Foreclosure Show is like Extreme Makeover without the makeover. The program, which airs every night at midnight on Channel 49 (11:30 p.m. on weekends), is essentially one long freeze-frame on the "before" picture. The show is unscripted, poorly made, filled with uncomfortable moments and awkwardly littered with sight gags and one-liners. In other words, it's totally addictive.

"I was doing this well before there were those shows," mastermind Ed Amatrudo clarifies from the comfortable leather couch in his Brentwood home. "But that's not what we do. We're more like the gritty underbelly of real estate." Amatrudo — a seasoned TV actor who'd previously trekked from New York to Los Angeles to Miami for work that increasingly dried up — thought up the show seven years ago after finding himself new in Nashville with a real-estate license but no customers.

"OK, great, I thought," says the tanned and crinkly-eyed Amatrudo. "I don't know anyone. I don't even have a map. It's very hard to sell real estate when you're new in town and don't know anybody." So he drew upon his only two skills — acting and moving real estate — and found out that, to his surprise, putting together an off-the-cuff TV show advertising his listings was easier and less costly than he'd imagined.

"It was the height of the reality TV thing," he says. "So I thought, maybe you could do a reality-TV-slash-real-estate show that's a little funny and maybe just kind of random. Just something different people hadn't seen."

That something is a goofy, fast-paced, down-and-dirty half-hour that delivers wacky in spades as Amatrudo traipses through foreclosed local homes. (The show also includes his regular real-estate listings.) Absent are the static photographs of the usual well-lit, well-staged homes you'd expect to see on a real-estate advertising show, accompanied by a yawn-inducing soundtrack of Muzak. Instead, mistakes, goofs and pratfalls abound — often edited to repeat ad nauseam for effect — along with daringly honest appraisal of the houses in question. That means straight-up commentary on hole-punched walls, stained carpet, tacky paint jobs and skid marks from refrigerators dragged out at the last minute, alongside boilerplate about square footage and bonus rooms.

"We don't dress real estate up as something that it isn't," says Amatrudo, who mentions that, with only 60 hours required to get a license in the biz, the person who gave you a $9 haircut has four times the training. "It's a sales job. We don't make it look like, 'Well, you have to drive a Mercedes and wear a jacket and tie.' It's not that kind of a job — to me, anyway. And I don't think other people look at it that way either."

As proof, he cites the multiple calls he received the first day the show aired back in 2003. Ever since, it has retained a steadily enthusiastic mix of would-be home buyers and folks just watching for entertainment value. "We'll get calls all the time where people say, hey, you know, 'We're not looking to buy any real estate, but where was that blue house you showed two nights ago?' They'll even watch the same show again and again!" he says with a bewildered laugh. "It's the same show for two weeks." He recently found out that there's even a drinking game associated with the show for every time he says, "OK, ladies and gentlemen," before going into his spiel.

That sort of response lets him know he's right to eschew the primped and perfumed approach of much real-estate marketing, a move Amatrudo says has ruffled feathers with other Realtors. Which isn't surprising after you've seen Amatrudo break every rule of real-estate spin — whether it's referring to a low-hanging light fixture with a shrug as a "deadly chandelier," or describing a loud paint color with dripping sarcasm: "Oooh, wow, OK, this whole house was apparently painted from $5 'oops' paint from the local do-it-yourself store."

"What we do is say, 'Listen, this is what the house looks like,' " he says. "This is what it smells like. This is what's wrong with it. This is why you're crazy if you buy this house or come here at night, because you'll fall through the floor. I think it's refreshing to people to get a picture that's not Photoshopped." —TRACY MOORE

Photographed by Eric England at a foreclosed home.

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