The motorcoach is the unsung hero of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
By Bethanie Hestermann
It is not very often a motorcoach gets a spot on primetime television. But on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the show just would not be complete without its bus.
The Emmy Award-winning program follows a team of designers on a quest to build new homes for deserving families all across the United States. Each episode, the cast and several hundred volunteers race the clock to custom build a new home in just seven days. Now in its sixth season, the team has traversed the nation and touched hundreds of lives and communities along the way.
The Extreme Makeover: Home Edition coach appears twice in each episode. Once when the design team watches a video introduction of the family they will help next; and then in its starring role as it blocks the family’s view of the completed project until prompted to reveal the big surprise. For a moment before the emotional “reveal,” the bus is the center of attention as the crowd chants MOVE THAT BUS!
Its biggest role is simply to move out of the way, but the coach’s cameo appearances have made it a trademark of the show. Motorcoach operators might be the minority of fans that, instead of joining the chant to move that bus, think Don’t move that bus, let’s take a look first!
The most viewed bus in the US
The 45-foot Vantare-converted luxury coach is built on a 2003 Prevost H345 Double Slide shell. It is spacious and fully loaded with luxurious appointments, high tech entertainment systems, heated floors and intricate lighting systems. The exterior is highly stylized with characteristic flames across the rear.
“The coach they currently use has kind of become their thing,” says Kylee Ervin, president of Diamond Coach, Whites Creek, TN, which supplied ABC with the vehicle. “It’s probably the most viewed bus in the United States. When the driver is out and around everybody recognizes it.”
Extreme Makeover uses an Alpha and a Bravo team that build homes for two families in different locations simultaneously, says Ervin. Since the bus is split between the two sites, a lot of driving is involved. The coach needs to be onsite for the initial “door knock,” when families learn they have been chosen for a new house, then it must make its way to the second site for the “reveal” before starting the process all over again with new sites.
Normally the same coach is used in each episode despite its heavy shooting schedule. A second coach is brought in only if the physical distance between sites is too extreme.
The driver who moves that bus!
Many know the name Ty Pennington, the show’s host, but few would know the name Juan Ramirez, the driver who moves that bus. In a matter of two-and-a-half years Ramirez has logged roughly 247,000 miles in the EMHE coach. According to his calculations he and that coach have driven enough miles to circle the world nearly seven times.
“I’ve seen the country once or twice, up and down, left and right,” jokes Ramirez. “The way I see it, my office is a million-dollar coach and the view out of my window is the country.”
Besides driving, Ramirez’s main responsibility is to manage the upkeep of the vehicle. He must make sure the bus stays running, clean inside and out and ready for travel at all times.
Though he has done plenty of his own dirty work, he has technicians at service centers all across the country that tend to any maintenance, detail the interior and wash the exterior while en route.
Changing the world one reveal at a time
Fans of the show want to take pictures with the bus or even just touch it, says Ramirez. But the coach’s celebrity goes beyond the fact that it is on TV. Ramirez says people respond so hysterically to the bus because they want to a part of what Extreme Makeover: Home Edition represents: hope, family and community.
Its role on the program came about almost coincidentally.
“In the pilot episode we thought about using a big curtain to block the house, but we were already over-budget,” says Diane Korman, senior producer of EMHE. “So Tom Forman, our consulting producer, decided to use the bus since it was the only object big enough.”
Oddly they didn’t think to move the bus during that first taping, so the family had to walk around to see their new house, Korman recalls. Two episodes later the producers decided it might be easier if the bus used its wheels and drove away for the big reveal.
For the record, the slogan move that bus, was also coincidental.
“We had no idea move that bus would become an icon of the show,” says Korman. “While most Hollywood productions are closed sets, we invited spectators to join us in welcoming the families home. Crowds grew from hundreds to thousands and they began to chant MOVE THAT BUS! before we were even ready to shoot them. It was a complete surprise!”
It may not be a show-stealer, but the coach just may be up for best supporting role in a reality series. The bus, its driver, and Diamond Coach are all key behind-the-scenes members of the team that has touched so many lives over the last six years.
And the payoff for Diamond Coach? A few minutes of primetime and a zoom-in on their logo as the bus drives away for the reveal.
“It’s worth it,” says Ervin. “Bus people pick up on stuff like that.” BR