'Living With Ed' Keeps HGTV in the Green
Driven by the popularity of Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," a debate has raged over human involvement in global climate change and how that should affect legislation, lifestyles and public policy.
In July, Live Earth, a series of massive rock shows in eight cities across the world, pushed the message of environmental consciousness. Considering how much energy a massive rock show consumes, one could wonder if it's the best venue to talk about conservation.
"I didn't see it," Begley says, "so I can't comment. But I wonder, too."
In the meantime, Begley has continued living his eco-friendly life with his wife, Rachelle Carson, and daughter Hayden in their bilevel bungalow in Studio City, Calif., with its solar panels, solar oven, fruit trees, gardens, recycled materials and energy conservation.
Begley still struggles to be as environmentally conscious as possible, to the eternal annoyance of his wife, who would like a few more of the creature comforts that living in Hollywood has to offer.
That conflict was at the heart of the first season of "Living With Ed," and it continues when the show returns for a new run, beginning Sunday, Aug. 26.
The new season also moves outside the Begley home, as he visits such celebrity pals as Daryl Hannah, spouses Bradley Whitford and Jane Kaczmarek, Sharon Lawrence, Jackson Browne, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and "Everybody Loves Raymond" co-creator Phil Rosenthal to see how they're employing green technology.
As for rising public and media interest in eco-issues, Begley says, "It's this perfect storm of several different events, many events coming to this tipping point where people of every stripe, Republicans, Democrats, people from many different economic and social strata now get a connection."
He also thinks folks are willing to do something about it, saying, "People are ready to make changes, if we can get the word out that there's really no sacrifice involved, that you can do a lot of these things, and it really won't cost you in any meaningful way. That is to say we still can get people a cool beverage and a warm shower. We're just going to do it more efficiently. People are really on board."
While not everyone agrees on the causes, progression or cures for global climate change, there's no doubt that ecological consciousness and conservation methods reduce pollution, preserve natural resources, increase national security and make financial sense.
"The vast, vast majority of scientists," Begley says, "feel there's a real problem and dire consequences of global climate change, but while you're at that store, you're picking up a few extra items.
"You're cleaning up air pollution in a city like Los Angeles; you're lessening our dependence on Mideast oil; you're going to put money in your pocket with a compact fluorescent bulb. What's wrong with saving money?"
And, unlike some leaders of the current environmental movement, Begley walks the talk, tailoring his lifestyle to sync with his message.
"I, for a number of reasons, have always tried to live a very modest lifestyle," Begley says. "My father, who was a conservative Republican that liked to conserve -- and I miss him to this day -- he taught me these lessons. He went through the Depression. We lived in a 1,700-square-foot house. I now live in a 1,700-square-foot house. In the early '90s, I was making good money, and people said, 'Ed, what are you doing in this little shack? This is crazy.'
"Let's put it this way: It's the smartest thing I ever did for my career, buying that house. By that I mean I can stay there for the rest of my days. I can do a David Mamet play; I can do my own play and not worry that I've got to shovel so much coal into the furnace of the SS Begley to keep it going, that I've got to do some crappy TV movie or something I don't want to do.
"I can stick with projects of quality, and that's what I've tried to do. So the home that I live in, the lifestyle that I chose, is, thank God, good for my career."
Since 1985, Begley has owned a 75-kilowatt wind turbine out in the desert near Palm Springs. He's also installed one -- albeit much smaller and quieter -- in his yard. He's not alone in this, as "Living With Ed" viewers will see.
"We're going to Jackson Browne's house, who is off the grid," Begley says. "He's got a wind turbine on site that's quite substantial. He's got solar. All he uses is propane for cooking, but other than that, he's off the grid."
Begley also drops by the house of friend Cheryl Tiegs to help her find compact fluorescent bulbs that suit her decor. But in terms of stylish solar panels, it turns out Rosenthal is way ahead of his pal.
"I had to get up on his roof and look at them," Begley says. "I said, 'They look like the shake shingles. They look like the other shingles.' From the street, it was seamless. You could not see them. You'll see it on the show. It's fantastic. It's what it needs to be."
Asked how "Living With Ed" has changed living with Ed, Begley says, "It's been the job I've always dreamed about. I don't have to leave my house. I don't have to learn any lines. I don't have to wear makeup. And I get to pick on Rachelle, and they pay me for it. How bad is that? It's the best job I've ever had."
But in the end, don't the fans love Rachelle? "I know," Begley says. "I thought they were going to side with me, but they all side with her. Where'd I go wrong?"