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New Life for Old Stuff
A non-fiction television series


Did you know that, located only a few miles from a restored 19th century sawmill powered by a water wheel, there is a radio station powered by—you guessed it—a water wheel? That’s right, WJFF, a public radio station in Jeffersonville, New York, operates on electricity generated by a small hydroelectric plant located on a nearby lake.

Most of us think the Erie Canal is an obsolete relic from a bygone day, when barges were towed by mules named Sal. Today, mules have given way to diesel tugboats, but the old Erie Canal is still one of the most fuel efficient and cost-effective ways to move freight from the East Coast to the Mid-West. Canal traffic has tripled in the just the past year. A hydro-powered radio station and the Erie Canal are both innovative examples of how we can move into a “green” future by looking back, by realizing the potential of older technology and “recycling” an idea or object into a 21st century context. There are also ways we can act on this principle that are much closer to home. In fact, countless creative and resourceful ways are available to repair, reclaim, and reuse what has been (or might be) discarded.

RE, a half-hour non-fiction television series, will explore all the “Re’s” of the age of environmental consciousness: “REuse, REimagine, REstore, REfurbish, REpurpose, REpair, REfit, REincarnate, REfinish, REvive, REbuild, REtrofit, and REcycle.” The RE crew will visit people who are practicing all of them, on both large and small scales. They may be at work restoring a Louis XIV chair bought for five bucks at a garage sale, or rebuilding an entire industry using ideas that were thought to be “old fashioned.” There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of captivating stories that RE can explore: “old” ideas that are being revived, revised, and recycled, ideas like trolleys or people movers, windmills, and water power, or old furniture, homes, clothing and appliances that are being restored back into service.

Each half-hour of RE will be an eclectic mix of intriguing segments that include brief mini-docs about craftspersons, detailed profiles of people undertaking ambitious restoration projects, and visits with experts, aficionados and amateurs alike, who are all finding innovative ways to bring new life to discarded old stuff. It will be built from several segments—some self-contained and others part of a “mini-series” that could last for several episodes, or even an entire season. A show may be built around a single “theme,” like water power, for example, or revolve around the theme of “old sounds,” bringing together segments on people who restore radios, rebuild acoustic phonographs, collect rare old records, and young audiophiles who transfer those crackling vinyl records to digital format to listen to on their iPods. Other episodes may be organized around a particular location or region.

RE will be anchored by two co-hosts who will introduce each segment, narrate in voiceover or report on camera, depending on the topic and location. In each segment, the hosts will provide viewers with ideas for projects that they can undertake as well as instructions and techniques for reviving and restoring artifacts they might own. Our hosts will not be contractors or professionals like the team on “This Old House,” but quirky, inquisitive characters with no more special expertise than the average viewer. Asking the important question, “How do you do it?” the hosts will serve as stand-ins for the audience, trying their hand at the project at hand, letting us know how easy — or challenging — it is.

When something breaks around the house, what do you do? Try to fix it, or put it out with the trash and buy a new one? For the many people who do the latter, there is hope. Repairing a broken toaster-oven, table, or lamp is more ecologically, and economically, friendly than discarding it. RE will come to the rescue here, with segments demonstrating simple household repair techniques for common problems that don’t require professional skills or specialized tools. Each episode will feature “how-to” segments so audience members can undertake their own restoration projects.

In today’s tough economic times, making purchases from garage sales or used furniture stores has become increasingly common, even chic and desirable. But who wants to live in a home surrounded by dingy, beat-up furniture? Who wouldn’t want to turn that flea-market find into a glowing gem? Segments will feature our hosts being guided through flea-market foraging and dumpster diving expeditions by thrifty aficionados, then follow them as they resurrect their second-hand or discarded object, offering step-by-step instructions so viewers can learn simple techniques to create treasures from forgotten junk.

There is a great deal of interest in restoring or refurbishing old homes. In the coming years, fewer people will move “up,” and will instead concentrate their efforts on restoring, repairing, and retrofitting their existing home. Our team will visit homeowners and contractors who are using “green” techniques and recycled materials, as well as energy efficient technologies. For instance, we may explore the resurgence in wood stoves — how an old technology has been upgraded and improved to increase efficiency and reduce pollution.

There have always been people interested in preserving artifacts from America’s past, people who restore houses, cars, tractors, radios, or farm equipment. RE isn’t interested in people who put old things in a display case to gaze at, or stash them in a museum to be dusted off every once in a while. We’re interested in people who restore, sure, and how they restore, but we’re also interested in what they do with the things they bring back from the dead.

For example, a segment might profile Greasecar Vegetable Fuel Systems, where founder Justin Carvin has pioneered a method of recycling used cooking oil to power diesel automobiles.

Musician Ken Butler will perform a concert on his hybrid musical sculptures, an inspired fusion of old instruments with common everyday objects.

Inside the Preloved studio, designers create cutting-edge fashion from recycled vintage clothing.

At the annual Rumblers Car Show, 200 classic car enthusiasts convene from around the country to celebrate their lovingly restored and fully operational pre-1964 hot rods, kustoms, stockers, and beaters.

On a grander scale, entire factories are being turned from empty relics into high-tech manufacturing facilities for “green” technologies like wind turbines and solar cells. And it’s not just the factories that are being reborn; the expertise and experience of manufacturing workers is being repurposed as well. Knowledge is being transferred from old rust-belt industries to newer endeavors. You see, “recycling” and “repurposing” are not limited to waste streams or physical assets like machinery or buildings, but can also be applied to ideas and expertise, to reclaiming skills and experience that might otherwise be discarded. RE will find and tell stories that exemplify the best of this kind of recycling, and perhaps provide a spark for someone to move on an idea that they have had percolating for years.

The subjects may be diverse, the locations widespread, but the production values will be consistent—and high. The RE team will find it and bring it to the viewer in sparkling high definition video. In short, the possibilities for RE are limitless, and are growing daily.


Who will want to watch this show? A better question might be who wouldn’t want to watch this show? We’re combining several of the hottest interest areas for all demographics with the same drivers that bring in audiences to Discovery, HGTV, Food Channel, Fine Living, The Military Channel, and Nat Geo. Our audience wants to learn about our world, find out how people are making changes, and maybe learn how to make some changes of their own. Our audience is self-reliant; they want to learn new skills and hone their existing ones. And finally, RE4 viewers will want to find out where to obtain the tools, materials and skills they need to follow their respective muses, and discover a way to put their ingenuity where their dreams are.

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