Formats Unpacked: Open Door

How a property format makes house viewing a new form of escapism

Hi All,

Thanks for taking the time to join us. When I started this over a year ago I knew there was a small number of format nerds out there that would like to read this sort of thing. I didn’t expect thousands of you to turn up week in and week out, just to read about end credits or the 2x2 matrix. I’m really pleased you do though.

This week I’m unpacking one of my favourite lockdown formats. I’ve seen every single episode of this format and it never lets me down.


What’s it called?

Open Door (Youtube series)

What’s the format?

8-12 minute videos in which celebrities give you a guided tour of their home. It’s produced by Architectural Digest so the homes are always pretty special. Occasionally the celebs will invite their interior designers along, giving credit where credit is due. Very rare though. It’s MTV’s Cribs but for an AD crowd. 

What’s the magic that makes it special?

For decades property shows have been feeding our universal hunger for snooping. We all love to do it. I can’t walk down the street without peeping through the gap between a pair of slightly opened curtains. Thanks to ‘Work From Home’, Zoom calls are now 50% business and 50% house snooping. Damn you Zoom Backgrounds. 

But snooping isn’t the magic of Open Door. The magic is that Open Door is made with the perfect amount of glance-up-ability (37%) built-in. OK, made-up word and made-up stat, but let me explain.

Open Door isn’t designed for scheduled TV. It’s designed for Youtube TV. You can watch it on your phone, laptop or desktop. But the perfect viewing experience is on your large TV screen. This way you get to really appreciate Dakota Jonson’s beautiful crushed mohair vintage sofas, Tommy Hilfiger’s penthouse views of Central Park, or Aaron Paul’s cathedral ceilings, in all their glory. Trust me. Sure, you can watch it on other devices but Kendall Jenner’s pops of colour just don’t pop as well on the iPhone. 

For the full experience, you must have Youtube’s Autoplay set to ‘on’. This removes the hard work of having to choose whose home you want to see next. Don’t give me choices. Give me taxidermy hanging on the walls of Dita Von Teese’s house.

Other than the tour, it’s not trying too hard to keep you watching constantly. The beats are: 

1 - Hello 

2 - Look around my house

3 - Goodbye

That’s it. It's a minimal viable format that sits somewhere between Slow TV and scheduled TV. 

For years property shows have been aspirational. The UK’s most popular shows, such as Location, Location, Location, Escape to the Country, A Place in the Sun and Grand Designs are all about upgrading your current situation. But the current trend in property TV is pure escapism and I love it. Trust me - I’m under no illusion, whatsoever, that one day I might be living in Mark Ronson’s Spanish-style Hollywood hideaway. I’m merely role-playing living in it. You should see my imaginary moodboards.

During lockdown lots of people shared Slow TV tours of cities as a means of escape. Some of which I did enjoy. But I found myself turning to Open Door, and similar formats, more than anything else. Whether it was Selling Sunset, discovering Youtube Estate Agents or wasting hours on Zillow viewing properties in Laurel Canyon that I’m never going to own. These formats provided the perfect ambient escapism for that homebound period of my life. 

Favourite Episode

I love Neil Patrick Harris’ magic inspired brownstone. I really like the rustic Idaho home of Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad. Probably because it makes a nice change from Hollywood or New York. The New York loft belonging to David Harbour from Stranger Things is exactly how you would imagine his home to be. As is Rainn Wilson’s pig farm. I begrudgingly like the Kendall Jenner episode too. But if someone was forcing me to live inside an actual episode I would probably move in with Mark Ronson

Similar Formats

MTV Cribs is the original, but not necessarily the best.

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Thanks for reading.

Do you have a favourite format that you’d like to unpack? A game maybe? A comic? A quiz? Drop us a line. Even if it’s just to say hello. I’d love to hear more from you all.

Til next week,

Hugh