The Great Christmas Light Fight: Carter Oosterhouse on the decor that left him 'dumbfounded'
Lights, camera, more lights!
Carter Oosterhouse and the team behind ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight are here to brighten up your holiday viewing — literally.
The show returns for its fifth season Monday, Dec. 4 with more sparkle than ever as families around the country compete to showcase the most spectacular of Christmas displays. Each episode (the series runs for three consecutive weeks) sees four families battle it out to win the gleaming Light Fight trophy and a $50,000 prize. In order to do so, they must impress the judges — Trading Spaces’ Oosterhouse and The Food Network’s Taniya Nayak — with their originality, creativity, and, above all else, their Christmas spirit. Only then will they decide which house shines the brightest.
Ahead of the premiere, we caught up with Oosterhouse to shed some, well, light on what to expect from the glowing showdown.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is working on this show just the best job ever? Is your Christmas spirit at peak heights?
CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Well, the traveling is difficult but it’s one of those shows that’s family friendly and really fun. This will be my fourth season and there’s never two homes that are the same. That’s the strange part because you’d expect that this might get a little monotonous, but it doesn’t and that’s because there’s so much great energy from the families. They also know the show, so they know to make things different and to do things that are impressing the judges. That’s what’s really fun because you see things that are unique to each season are that are not repetitive from seasons before. They’re really intent on making sure that they’re not repeating and that the details are really looked after. We don’t always want to say more lights are better, but I mean it’s crazy this year — we’ve seen homes with millions of lights.
All I can think about is detangling one million lights. The preparation that goes into this must be insane.
It is, but you have to remember that these people have been doing this for years and it’s sort of second nature for them. They know what they’re doing, they know exactly where they’re storing their lights, they know exactly what lights to put where — and most people know their power companies really well! They’re absorbing so much power so if something goes down they can get the power company out fast.
It’s not something anyone would take on lightly, pardon the pun. Do you hear really cool reasons for people going all out like this with their decorations?
It’s a lot of family bonding, whether it’s father/son, father/daughter, whatever it is. That’s really fun to see. They’re creating memories for their family and they’re also creating memories for all their neighbors too. Most of the time the reasons are for people, for the community. They want to share how they perceive Christmas and share that enthusiasm with their community and neighborhood. We went to some towns that literally have 200, 300 people in the town and you’re like, “Wait a minute, this is way too big of a Christmas display to be putting up when you only have this many people in the town!”
Yeah, there’s probably more lights on one window of one house than there are people in the town.
Right! When we get there — because there’s always a crowd — we’re like, “Is the whole town here right now?”
Are there any crazy last-minute disasters?
Well, these people have been doing this for quite some time so they’re really good. Still, they’re not immune to weather. This year we dove a little bit deeper with Hurricane Harvey in Houston. There were families that were up against mother nature and they still battled back. Not only were they taking care of their everyday life, but they were still putting up lights — that was huge for their community and really impressive. But as far as disasters are concerned, we’ve definitely had moments when the lights don’t go on when they’re supposed to and it’s in front of 400 people. Everyone’s waiting patiently and the homeowner kind of freaks out a little bit, but at the same time, when you have a million lights, if say, 20,000 lights are out, I’m not going to notice.
Have there been any stands outs? Or do you have a theme or style that’s your favorite?
I think since people know that I’m a judge and that I like DIY stuff, they transform their homes with a lot of DIY and a lot of technology. That’s a home run for me because I love seeing them get their hands dirty and I love seeing them turn the exterior of their home into something that doesn’t look like a home — it’s purely because they’ve picked up a hammer and really had some ingenuity and figured out how to create something that’s spectacular. That’s the stuff that gets me going. Even this year we’ve had some stuff where the creativity and the engineering has just been off the charts. I feel like I’m pretty good at figuring stuff out, but I see some mechanical Santa Claus that is moving with multiple parts and I want to figure out how they made it. This season we have moments where I couldn’t figure it out. I was dumbfounded.
That’s just the magic of Christmas! You judge them on three categories: Lights, overall design, and Christmas spirit. How does one rate someone’s Christmas spirit?
It’s in the way they show their personality and how they perceive the holidays through their display and how they then share that with their neighbors. And just doing it for the rights reasons; you can see that as you walk around with them for an evening looking at their display.
For those of us who don’t have a house and a million lights, do you have some tips for smaller scale decorating?
Yes. One would be patient with your significant other. It’s supposed to be a moment of having fun and joy, but I know myself when my wife and I will go decorate (which, by the way, after the show I don’t even want to decorate), that you definitely have to get on the same page as your significant other. Be patient because it’s supposed to be enjoyable.
Bring some wine?
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And if it doesn’t happen the way you thought of it in your head, it’s okay. It’s still Christmas lights and everyone’s going to love it. Two would be, color coordinate. I’m a big believer in color-coordinating your lights. LEDs will obviously help on the electric bill as well. We’ve also got so many people this year taking old nostalgic pieces and just rewiring them for LED lights. Nostalgic pieces are always fun to see because in the tech-savvy world we live in now, there’s so many different things you can have and having some throwback pieces mixed in there for that blend is really fun.
The Great Christmas Light Fight kicks off Monday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.