2024-02-28 4 min read

Cabin masters.

Cabin masters.
"Returning to Camp after a days fishing, Maine," 1902-1903. Image via the The New York Public Library's Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.

You know who doesn’t spend much time noodling? The Maine Cabin Masters.

I do not understand how this show works. Produced by the DIY Network from 2017 until 2022, when DIY was absorbed into Chip and Jo Gaines’ home makeover empire, Maine Cabin Masters offers a lo-fi view of a radically scrappy construction company based in Manchester, Maine. The show’s protagonists (brother and sister Chase and Ashley Morrill; Ashley’s husband, Ryan; their two senior-ish carpenter types, Jedi and Dixie; a ragtag group of usually unnamed tradespeople and subcontractors) are friendly and rambunctious, often adorned in Phish shirts and sunglasses, gesticulating wildly as they give project updates to an emotionally charged soundtrack. Chase – ostensibly the most responsible person on the show – hoards a wide variety of dingy construction materials in his backyard. Ashley often refers to her “design team,” which is perpetually off-camera, burning the candle at both ends to craft and collect knick-knacks to accent their completed projects. Ryan’s demolition tool of choice is a limp “karate kick,” something he executes once every episode or two. Accidents happen not infrequently, and injury is often barely avoided. In one episode, the center portion of a building is demolished by felling a large tree directly through it. In another, while lifting a heavy (yet somehow still decorative) beam into place, Dixie takes a big fall off of his stepladder – a moment which for my family was teased multiple times before nonexistent commercial breaks on an ad-free streaming service. Ryan has (accidentally) fallen through a ceiling at least once, not to mention the many times he (intentionally) crashes through a wall like the Kool-Aid man. All of these hijinx are amplified by the show's production aesthetic, the hallmark of which is to strap a GoPro to whatever beam, wall, or window that the crew is demolishing, giving the viewer a sense of vertigo as that object is then smashed, shattered, or dropped dramatically into the dumpster.

In short, I find the Maine Cabin Masters’ jobsite safety practices to be scandalous. And yet I must admit that their approach has a number of positive qualities.

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