Run of the mill misfortune apparently just isn't going to cut it anymore on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
As casting for the next season of the heartstring-tugging show approaches, producers have come up with a list of truly tragic conditions and scenarios that would presumably make for better television than the mere poverty and woe that has affected families in past episodes.
In an email sent by an ABC executive to network affiliates earlier this month and obtained by the Smoking Gun, a casting director for the show outlines the specific debilitating illnesses and devastating situations producers are especially eager to feature on the feel-good reality series.
According to the email, the show would just love to dispatch hunky handyman Ty Pennington and his crack construction team to the homes of families afflicted with extremely rare maladies such as congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, also known as CIPA, which prevents children from feeling any physical pain.
"There are 17 known cases in the U.S.--let me know if one is in your town!," the email's author urges.
More desirable candidates for the show include families with a child suffering from progeria ("aka 'little old man disease' " per the email), the condition that causes rapid aging in a child or families with an "extraordinary" parent recently diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease.
"Amazing" moms and dads suffering from skin cancer are up there too, along with "amazing" kids suffering from muscular dystrophy, especially if they are "changing people's views about MD."
Families who have been affected by hate crimes or those who have had a child killed by a drunk driver and managed to "turn tragedy into triumph" are also on the most-wanted list, as are families with more than one child with Down syndrome, whether they are "adopted or biological."
"As we begin to cast a new season for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, we also begin to look for stories of families who are trying to overcome adversity but just need a little help (Especially with their home!)," the email explains.
While the list of desirable tragedies may smack of exploitation, there's no doubt the show's brand of heartwarming homemaking strikes a chord with viewers. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition finished eighth in the ratings last week, with an audience of 16.2 million.
The show is currently in the midst of a run of special episodes called Extreme Makeover: Home Edition--After the Storm, in which Pennington and his team help to rebuild the homes of families affected by hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.