Are the Celebrity IOU surprises really all that surprising?

While it would be nice to believe, there are a few details about Celebrity IOU’s surprise renovations that just do not add up.

Jonathan and Drew Scott have become synonymous with the world of home renovation and construction because of their series of successful HGTV shows.

But their show, Celebrity IOU, see these twins take a step back from their usual hands-on approach  to help various celebrities to ‘surprise’ their loved ones with some very special renovation projects.

A deeper look at Celebrity IOU

If you ask the show’s hosts, the Celebrity IOU ‘surprise factor’ is completely real and unexpected.

In fact, Drew told Entertainment Weekly that they even used spies to ensure that Jean Ann Black (who fans of the show will recognize as Brad Pitt’s long-time makeup artist) was not around when they wanted to work on her home.

However, if you ask us, doing unexplained and unplanned “surprise” renovations to someone’s home seems like a lawsuit in the making, and we suspect that there is some sort of permit-signing or, at the very least, contractual agreement, which must happen before the cameras start rolling.

The Celebrity IOU format

Although the end result usually differs, every Celebrity IOU follows a very similar format.

Essentially, a well-known celebrity gifts a new home or some brand-new renovations to someone special in their lives, but all of the renovations are kept under wraps until the surprising final reveal.

Some of the celebrities that have gifted fabulous renovations in the last couple of years include:

Celebrity guests Celebrity IOU episode
Brad Pitt Season 1, episode 1
Melissa McCarthy Season 1, episode 2
Allison Janney Season 2, episode 2
Gwyneth Paltrow Season 3, episode 4
Snoop Dogg Season 4, episode 3
Drew Barrymore Season 5, episode 8
Jay Leno Season 6, episode 5
Regina Hall Season 7, episode 3

The red tape

If you have ever tackled a renovation project of your own, you will likely already know that the red tape can become fairly overwhelming.

And while laws and processes differ from one area to the next, most of the renovations that we have seen done in the first three seasons of Celebrity IOU so far likely required certain permits or permission from the local government municipality.

In fact, any major renovations which include adding a new structure or permanently altering an existing structure will require a permit of some kind, such as:

  • Building an additional structure on a property
  • Major renovations and repairs
  • Changing the use of a building
  • Altering or constructing foundations
  • Plumbing, electrical, or sewage system work

And since these permits usually need to be applied for (or at the very least, signed) by the property owner, it just seems like it would be impossible for Celebrity IOU to do any of their makeovers without giving some of their plans away to the recipients.

The timing issue

Another aspect about Celerity IOU’s surprises that has just never quite lined up is the fact that the show expects the audience to believe that the recipients of these fabulous makeovers somehow did not notice (or did not question) all of the construction happening at their homes.

And while the show usually tries to cover this by explaining that the recipients were out of town, it is not usually very believable.

Jonathan told Architectural Digest that they completed the renovations for the Brad Pitt episode “in under three weeks.”

And though this is an impressive feat – it is just a bit difficult to believe that Jean or any of these guests left their homes unattended for that long.

The one thing on the show that we can believe

In the end, it should not come as a shock to anyone that shows like Celebrity IOU fabricate some elements in order to make for a more compelling story.

But, with that being said, it does seem like most of what the show portrays is actually legitimate.

And while the Celebrity IOU “surprises” may not always be as surprising as the show wants viewers to believe, it seems as though the hard work that goes into the renovation and design work is indeed very real – and so is the celebrity guest hosts’ involvement in the process.

The Scott brothers have mentioned on multiple occasions how the celebrities featured on this show have flown back and forth from other states and even other countries to ensure that they got to be part of the entire process.

Melissa McCarthy, for instance, who also trekked back and forth from a movie set for her episode, was heavily involved in the design aspect of her episode and even insisted that the team use very specific unlacquered brass finishes.