Erin and Ben Napier, the stars of HGTV's Home Town, outside their business. Photo for The Washington Post by Meggan Haller

Washington - Ben Napier is massive. His wife, Erin - 5-foot-5, slim - is not. She calls him "Big" and cranes her neck in such a constant state of adoration that she appears to be risking long-term muscle strain.

"Our show is a little bit This Old House, and a little bit Gilmore Girls, " says Erin, 32, standing in the living room of the morning's second makeover house, where the Napiers are taping Home Town, the latest hit show on cable giant HGTV.

The show is a paean to this town of 19 000, once rich in loblolly pine, a town of handsome early 20th-century houses and dismal 1970s downtown urban renewal, which the Napiers and their entrepreneurial friends are determined to undo.

Laurel has "seen some hard times," says Ben, 34, in the show's opening. "We're committed to change that one house at a time."

The Napiers - and Laurel - are rising stars of HGTV. This spring, more than 16 million viewers watched the debut season of Home Town. Driving around, it's easy to spot the five houses that the show is simultaneously renovating for the second season, scheduled to air early next year. 

The driveways are crammed with dumpsters and a dozen production and construction-crew trucks. Visitors tour the historic district in search of last season's renovations - and the Napiers' yellow 1925 Craftsman home.

"I keep asking, 'Is this real?' It's like looking at the sun," Erin says of becoming quasi-famous in six months. "You can't look directly at it. We have to think of our lives now as something really regular."

Really regular lives catapulted into the celebrity stratosphere, thanks to Americans' addiction to televised home makeovers, the comfort food of cable.

Washington Post